Chichester eyeing best cross-country medal haul

James Baker on his way to winning the Hayling ten-mile race   Picture by Mick Young 143349-10

James Baker on his way to winning the Hayling ten-mile race Picture by Mick Young 143349-10

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CHICHESTER are eyeing up their best-ever medal haul in the Sussex Cross Country League.

Following close on the heels of the last fixture just two weeks ago, the third fixture takes place at Lancing Manor this Saturday.

It will be a crucial day, especially in the team rankings, as it will be difficult for teams to make up lost ground with only the final fixture remaining at the end of February.

After a strong all-round showing over the muddy Plumpton course last time, Chichester potentially have a chance of their best medal haul over the season.

In five out of the six junior age groups they lie in medal positions – with the under-15 boys and under-17 women looking the best bet for grabbing a league title if the squad can retain their form.

They top the table after two fixtures but have other strong clubs including Hastings, Brighton, Crawley and Lewes capable of mounting a challenge.

The boys have a lead of 15 points as things stand but the position is much tighter in the under-17 women’s standings where just six points separate the top four clubs, with Chichester just a single point ahead of second-placed Hastings.

Much will depend on the performance of the whole squad as club No1 Rose Ellis may be forced to miss her second race in succession because of injury.

For the seniors, the men’s team currently lie in second place in division two and are in line for their second promotion in succession.

They owe much to having two athletes in the top eight last time, with overall race winner James Baker being ably supported by top under-20 runner Harry Leleu in a fine eighth place.

In the women’s team standings, the top four clubs seem to have pulled clear but Chichester, in third, are a single point ahead of Brighton & Hove in fourth.

Top veteran Jane Harrop, in sixth place, led her younger team-mates home at Plumpton and enabled the club to overtake Brighton into third place.

The day’s action starts as usual with an invitation race for under-11s in school Years 5 and 6. The main league programme starts with the under-13 girls at 12.30pm and the final event, the senior men’s race, is off at 2.30 pm.

Baker warmed up for the Lancing test with a course-record victory in the popular Hayling ten-mile race.

Lining up against a field of 450 runners on Sunday, it was not long before Baker had established clear daylight between himself and the rest of the field.

Buoyed by his Sussex Cross Country League win the week before, Baker kept up an impressive 5min 15sec per mile for the whole race and crossed the line in 52.37, equalling his best time for the distance, not bad going for an athlete just three weeks short of his 38th birthday.

It was more than minutes before the next competitor came into view in just under 57 minutes and following on were some encouraging runs from the rest of the Chichester squad.

Other Chichester finishers: Steve Davy 18th (5th over-40) in 63.23, Colin Harley 82nd (14th over-50) in 72.12, Kim Nelson 89th (winner of the women’s over-45 category) in 72.38, John Betts 165th (12th over-60) 80.35, Stephen McNally 282nd in 89.07, Sue Baker 298th (7th over-55) in 90.29, Sandra Nemorin-Noel 323rd (9th over-55) in 92.41 and Carole Palmer 325th (10th over-55) in 93.06.

PHIL BAKER

* Chichester Runners & AC hosted a trial afternoon of events at Bishop Luffa School which was well supported by athletes of all ages.

It worked as preparation for their next Sussex indoor sportshall league fixture on December 14.

Nearly 70 potential team members took part in events ranging from two and four-lap track races to a variety of field events including shot putt, speed bounce and long and vertical jumps.

There is still time to register an interest in competing in the Horsham match on Sunday week and those wishing to be considered should get in touch with junior team manager Phil Baker by email at philbaker5@btinternet.com

There are three age groups in the competition: under-11 (school Years 5 & 6), under-13 (Years 7 & 8) and under-15 (Years 9 & 10).