Chichester were just pipped in a four-way battle at Andover that marked the start of the track season.
A squad of 26 athletes just failed to come out on top in Chichester’s opening track and field match.
It was a question of what might have been for the club as an absence of hurdlers, pole vaulters and specialist jumpers left too many gaps to fill – but there were some dominant performances in other events.
Chichester’s women sprinters, with the men and women middle-distance runners, dropped just five points out of a maximum 80.
Of huge encouragement for the club was the overall age of the squad, with 20 of the 26 athletes either under-17 or under-20.
With this emphasis on youth and so many athletes coming through the junior ranks, the long-term future of the team is looking rosy.
The match marked a special anniversary for one of the athletes, James Baker who is in his 23rd consecutive season in Chichester’s league team and marked the occasion with his 200th outright win on the track.
Sprinter Sophie-Anne Haigh produced the best two performances and was narrowly edged out by the Dorset hurdler for the title of women’s athlete of the match.
A time of 12.3sec in the 100m was followed by a 25.0sec 200m clocking with the times ranking Haigh sixth and 13th respectively in the UK at this early stage of the season.
In the B strings, Rachel Laurie and Rosie Compton were too good for their rivals to give the club maximum points from the two events.
Grace Wills kept the ball rolling by striding away from the field in the 800m for a sub 2.30min clocking while Caitlin Brown, in her first appearance as an under-17, ensured another set of maximum points with a comfortable B-string win.
Wills completed the double in the 400m later in the programme with Chloe Benson, another first-timer in the team, picking up a good second place which Wills and Brown repeated in the 1,500m. Phoebe Pontet was the Chichester’s lone hurdler and picked up useful points which she added to with Compton in the high jump.
There was a mother and daughter combination in the throws with Sarah and Lucie Munday adding well to the club total in shot, javelin and hammer, with Brown joining the action in the discus.
The track programme saw Chichester’s best overall performance for many years, especially in the middle-distance events with just a single point dropped at 800m and over.
Just six days after coming sixth in the Brighton Marathon, 40-year-old James Baker stepped on to the track in the 5,000m and showed no ill effects from his exertions by striding away from the rest of the field to win by more than a minute in 16.00min, moving him into third place in the UK 5,000m over-40 rankings at this stage of the season.
Next home was Chris West to win the B string while Ben Morton and Conrad Meagher made it four Chichester athletes in the top five.
West later moved into the A string for the steeplechase with Charlie Benson winning the B string easily.
Two of the club’s medal-winning under-17 cross-country team over the winter made their mark with Ben Collins and Will Broom winning the 800m and 1,500m respectively.
West and Meagher tackled the B strings and such is the club’s strength in depth that Brodie Keates as non-scorer would have scored for all the other clubs in the match.
Collins set a new personal best over 400m with Dominic Easton showing a clean pair of heels to win the B string.
It was only in the sprints where Chichester had their work cut out against the home club No1, who broke 11 seconds for the 100m and 22 for the 200m, two of the top times nationally this season.
Isaac Kilroy and Cellan Robinson stuck to their guns to post fast times with reserve Dean Young also showing promise in the non-scoring events.
Alex Ioan led the jumps with support from Collins and Robinson, leaving Chichester’s throwing trio from last season to make their usual solid contribution to the total.
Performance of the day in this category came from hammer thrower Andy Hall, who was delighted with a 40m effort to win the event and propel him into the national top three in his age group.
Tim Brown led the team in the other three throws supported by Hall in shot and discus and Phil Kearney in the javelin.
The next match is on Sunday, May 21, when the squad travel to Poole.
1 Team Dorset 193pts
2 Andover & Overton 182
3 Chichester 153
4 Swindon 132
Two Chichester athletes have been in action in the United States.
Isobel Brown is now in her fourth year of American college athletics and showed her usual consistent form with a 1.70m clearance in the high jump at Long Beach, California.
On the same day, distance runner Rebecca Moore was in action in Philadelphia and set a new personal best time of 16min 52.5sec over 5,000m, knocking four seconds from her Southern League record time from last year.
This moves Moore into the top 20 in the UK over the distance and came only a week after running 35.27.7 over 10,000m in New Haven, Connecticut, which is the seventh fastest by a UK runner this season.
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