Chichester athletes enjoy a battle in Bexhill

Chichester's under-13 girls at Bexhill / Picture by Nicky Stallard
Chichester's under-13 girls at Bexhill / Picture by Nicky Stallard

Conditions at the undulating Bexhill course were near on ideal for 600 runners at the second fixture in the Sussex Cross Country League.

Heavy overnight rain had eased and conditions were surprisingly firm underfoot for the majority of the Little Common circuit.

Although missing a dozen athletes on duty elsewhere, Chichester fielded a squad of more than 50 runners across the age groups to maintain their challenge having set a high standard in the opening fixture at Goodwood in October.

Although missing a dozen athletes on duty elsewhere, Chichester fielded a squad of more than 50 runners across the age groups to maintain their challenge having set a high standard in the opening fixture at Goodwood in October.

Senior & under-17 women

With their leading finisher from Goodwood Olivia Wiseman, in action at Butser in East Hampshire, university student Alice Wright led Chichester’s women home in a fine 13th place out of a strong field of more than 130 runners.

Close behind were the under-17 duo of Imogen Matthews in 17th and Alice Cox-Rusbridge in 26th before Sarah Fenmor Collins brought the A team home in 48th for a team total of 104 points – giving them equal fourth on the day and second place overall in the team standings on 133, just 16 behind the new leaders Arena 80.

There was close packing for the B team with Sophie Wright in 51st, Emma Hughes 61st and Annabel Parker 62nd to leave them third in division two.

For the C team under-17s Florence Smith and Beth Brown were followed by Jenny Jakeman, with Chichester able to field a complete D team for the second league match in a row with Nadia Anderson, Naomi Kershaw and Rebecca Brown.

While also scoring for the senior women’s teams, the under-17s were also engaged in their own separate age group and have strengthened their position at the top of the rankings.

A fifth place from Matthews, sixth from Cox-Rusbridge and 11th from Smith gave them 22 points with an aggregate of 38 after two matches and a 20-point lead over their nearest rivals.

Senior men

Chichester’s top four senior men this season were all missing from the action at Bexhill and it looked as though their position at the top of division two may come under threat. But Chichester’s reserves pulled out all the stops and although not winning on the day, they still have a gap of 80-plus points over their nearest rivals in their quest for promotion to division one.

Improving university student Joe Godwood led Chichester home for a well-judged race in 33rd position out of a quality field of more than 150 finishers.

The other three members of the A team all finished within a few seconds of each other with under-20 Brodie Keates in 52nd just edging out veterans Simon Dunne in 53rd and Charles Rodmell in 56th. Their points total of 194th leaves them on 277 overall with their nearest rivals on 359.

Nic Fenmor Collins led home the B team in 84th followed by Graham Woodward 101st, Om Phulpan 111th and Mike Moorcroft 140th to leave them sixth in division three.

As with the senior women, Chichester’s men are showing good strength in depth this season with a C team of Tom Blaylock 142nd, Ryan Morgan 148th, Martin Miller, still going strong as an over-70, 151st and Peter Anderson 153rd.

Under-17 men

The under-17 men run separately in league fixtures to keep to their 5k distance as opposed to the senior and veterans usual 8k.

With Will Broom opting to test himself in the UK Cross Challenge at Milton Keynes to test his fitness after a lengthy lay-off after injury, Leo Stallard brought the team home in a good seventh place followed by Ned Potter in 12th and Harry Sage completing the scoring in 28th just ahead of David Bisatt in 30th.

This puts Chichester on 89 points after two matches and just outside the top three in fourth place but still well in touch with the team medals with two rounds to go.

Under-15 boys and girls

The club’s outstanding individual run of the day came in the under-15 boys’ race where Liam Dunne, up to now mainly a track specialist, eased away from the rest of the record league field of 65 runners on the second of two laps.

He was chased down only by a fast-finishing Lewes athletes near the line to record his best placing in a Sussex cross-country race. This was despite confusion at the end of the race where the first few athletes were mistakenly sent on an extra lap – but the rightful positions were restored to the leaders in the results.

Team-wise, Chichester have been struggling this season and once again only Archie Sadler kept Dunne company to finish 44th but lacking a third runner, the club could not fight for a team position.

There was a similar story in the girls’ under-15 race as six of the club’s usual squad were needed by Bishop Luffa school to fly the flag in the English Schools Cup, having won their first-round match at Worth School in October.

This time they went to Tonbridge in Kent against some of the best schools in the south-east and came away with a creditable fourth team place with Olivia Toms a fine fourth followed by Maggie King in 14th, Nina Moranne 26th, Rose Potter 44th, Hannah Carmichael 49th and Maya Solly 50th.

Chichester’s two girls’ under-15 runners at Bexhill were Nicole Boltwood in 28th and Charlotte Bullard 32nd and both will look forward to the next league fixture at Lancing Manor on December 2 when the squad expect to be at full strength.

Under-13s and under-11s

Chichester under-11 girls kept up their medal challenge with another close-fought fourth place with 33 points. Isobel Buckler was first home in a fast race in seventh place, closely followed by twin sister Eva in ninth and Cerys Dickinson 17th.

Maddie Byers brought home the B team in 37th followed by Skye Sadler 40th and twin Maisie in 43rd with reserve Katya Katolinic 45th.

The boys also completed two teams despite being below strength. Joe McLarnon continued his fine form in seventh, closely followed by Fionn O’Murchu in 13th and Harvey McGuiness in 16th with a mere 18 seconds separating the trio.

Their team total of 35 points gives them an aggregate of 65 and fourth place overall but well in touch with the top three teams.

For the B team, Oscar Rothwell in 39th led home Logan Cooper in 41st and Barney McLarnon 47th with reserve Marcus Bone 50th.

Three of Chichester’s regulars were in action for Bishop Luffa School at Tonbridge and all ran well in the English Schools Cup. Ollie Fuller was first home in 35th followed by Gabryal White in 39th and Max Sydenham in 63rd in a very competitive race.

In the under-11 races, Josh Dunne was the best-placed of the Chichester contingent with fifth place in the boys’ race followed by Sam Cato in 17th and Seb Fenmor Collins in 30th.

In the girls’ race, Chichester were represented by another set of twins – setting a club record as the first time three sets of twins had appeared in the same fixture. Lillie Hellyer in 13th was just in front of sister Laila in 21st.

PHIL BAKER