Women athletes strike gold for Chichester - and so do the boys

Chi Runners' under-20 and under-17 women at Hickstead / Picture by Sara Ellis
Chi Runners' under-20 and under-17 women at Hickstead / Picture by Sara Ellis

Chichester Runners’ women’s team are cross-country champions of Sussex.

They tied up a first-ever county league top spot with another superb performance in the mud and cold at Hickstead Showground on Saturday in the final fixture of the season.

The club’s senior women overhauled last year’s champions Lewes with a superb display of team packing.

The club’s senior women overhauled last year’s champions Lewes with a superb display of team packing.

Only gaining promotion to division one a couple of seasons ago, the team went from strength to strength to claim the runners-up spot last season.

Inspired by a mixture of youth and experience, the team ethic Chichester’s women have shown is due in no small part to the dedication of team manager Sara Ellis, who had triple cause for celebration on Saturday with an emphatic win for the under-17s in their own right and a win for the women’s B team in division two ensuring one of the two promotion places – meaning that Chichester will be the only Sussex club to have two teams in the top flight next season.

In the junior age groups, there was another cause for celebration with a win for the under-15 boys to complete a season’s treble following a cross-country relay win in October and a championship win in January. Other team and individual medals made it a day to remember for the club.

Senior and under-17 women

Knowing only their best would be enough, Chichester’s senior, under-17 and veteran women started on their tough 5k course with their scoring four in the top dozen and another five in the top 50 of a quality field led by county champion Emma Macready from Worthing.

Consistent Rose Ellis led the team home in sixth place followed by a fast-finishing Karina Bennett in tenth – first under-17 home.

Charlotte Reading, who like Ellis is in the under-20 age group, was 12th and a fighting display from Grace Wills in 14th completed the A senior team scoring and gave her the individual under-17 league gold medal ahead of team-mate Bennett.

A total of 42 points from the four athletes was the winning total of the day in front of Hailsham and Worthing and gave a season’s aggregate of 224 points to the 239 of former leaders Lewes to take the league title by 15 points.

The margin of victory showed how vital every performance had been, from Goodwood in October, Bexhill in November, Lancing in December and now Hickstead.

Ellis had more to celebrate with an individual bronze medal, with Reading a place behind in fourth.

Leading the B team home was evergreen Jane Harrop who had already claimed the over-55 veterans’ prize with a perfect record.

Harrop in 19th was followed by Amber Westron, fifth under-17, and over-40 Anne Sydenham in 41st for the lowest total of 92 in division two, securing automatic promotion to division one for next season as runners-up to Brighton Phoenix A.

Emma Hughes led the C team home in 45th with Annabel Jeffries 50th and Nicola Mead 69th, with reserves Lorna Cowan 71st and Sue Baker 89th.

The under-17 trio of Bennett, Wills and Westron won the title and posted the widest winning margin of any age group – a 39-point gap to runners-up Hastings on 103.

Senior men

Despite a fine effort from their seven runners at Hickstead, Chichester’s senior men could not climb out of the relegation zone and will be returning to division two next season.

James Baker once again led the squad home in eighth place in a quality field and earned himself yet another individual Sussex medal in a fine career spanning 23 seasons.

In his last full year as a senior athlete his total of 12 points from his best three races was good enough for bronze.

Veteran Jim Garland continued his excellent season in 35th followed by under-20 Will Kallaway. Jason Boswell was next in 76th, followed by Tom Blaylock in 90th, which made him third over-60 home and earned him third overall in his age group and another individual league medal for the club.

Dave Reading in 96th just squeezed out Mike Moorcroft in 98th for the final scoring place.

Juniors

The highlight of the junior races came in the under-15 boys with Ben Collins leading Chichester to team and individual gold to add to his double success in the county championships at Bexhill in January.

A front trio pulled away from the pack and for once Collins was just pipped over the last 100m and had to settle for second place, but he was already assured of the Sussex title as a result of his unblemished record over the first three fixtures.

All eyes were on the team prize with Chichester just 14 points ahead of Brighton & Hove going into the fixture.

With Will Broom and Leo Stallard missing, it was left to Harry Sage in 17th and JJ Staples in 21st to see the club home for a team total of 40 points which matched the score of rivals Brighton to give Chichester the title by the 14-point margin they had at the beginning of the day.

Lewes AC produced the best score of the day but were too far behind to challenge the top two and had to settle for third.

Excelling themselves on the day were the under-17 men who comfortably won the race and cemented their league silver medals to complete a fine winter’s season having won gold at the county championships last month.

Luke Campbell put in a fine performance to finish fourth with Brodie Keates eighth, Sam Reading ninth and reserve Benedict Robinson 11th.

There were promising runs from Will Wells and Charlie Sharp, 31st and 33rd in the under-13 boys’ race, while Charlotte Bullard led home the under-13 girls in eighth followed by Nina Moranne in 16th and Hannah Carmichael in 25th while Caitlin Brown continued her improvement with 13th in the under-15 girls’ race.

PHIL BAKER

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make this website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex

3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

Share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!