Chichester’s Youth Development League juniors were involved in an amazing four-way battle at Winchester – with just a handful of points separating the top clubs.
It leaves the top of the table finely balanced with just one match to go on Saturday, July 15 at Woking.
The season may turn out to be a virtual repeat of 2016 when Chichester’s youngsters went to Woking and won the match, emerging as league champions.
In scorching temperatures at Winchester the lead changed hands many times with Chichester in top spot at the halfway stage. But some fine relay running at the end of four hours of competition from both the Winchester and Walton squads enabled them to just do enough to beat Chichester.
Woking were edged out into fourth and last-time winners Bournemouth and New Forest were fifth with Havant sixth.
Current league standings
1 Winchester 1395 match pts
2 Walton 1368
3 Chichester 1361
4 Bournemouth & New Forest 1327
5 Woking 1316
6 Havant 566
The Chichester under-13s excelled, coming home with three new club records despite having to contend with the heat.
Sophie Dudman was on fine form in the hurdles and sped to a 12.2sec clocking, the best ever by a Chichester athlete. She was joined by Phoebe Boardman, a newcomer, who easily won the B string race despite arriving with minutes to spare.
The two combined in the high jump, which produced a fine competition. Both were among the best of the day and Boardman finally cleared 1.35m to win the B string and go equal third on the club’s all-time list.
This left Dudman still in the competition, though her best before the match was 1.29m. Going over the bar at 1.40m to equal the club record, Dudman cleared 1.43 and then 1.46 to lift her to the top ten on the national rankings.
Poppy Chandler and Skye Sadler came in to help strengthen the track races while established pairing Cerys Dickinson and Amelie McGurk ran well in the 800m.
With Lucy Hollyer in the long jump, the rest of the squad made sure the field events were well covered to earn valuable points for the total.
The boys under-13s also showed greater strength than in the previous matches with four new additions to the squad.
One of the more established members produced the most scintillating track performance of the day. Joe Mclarnon has already made his mark in cross-country and road running and lined up for the 1,500m with conditions still pretty sweltering.
His rivals, especially the runners from Bournemouth and Walton, decided a fast pace was needed from the gun and Mclarnon decided to hang back by a few metres.
The placings stayed the same until the last 200m when the Chichester athlete decided to make a move and use his new-found sprinting speed. He overhauled the Walton athlete on the crown of the bend and battled with all his might to the line, just failing to win the race by three tenths of a second.
But he was rewarded by a personal best by no less than 19 seconds, a new club under-13 record and a place just outside the UK top ten.
There was a new good sprint pairing of Noah and Micah Cambell with James Carmichael a capable reserve while another pair of newcomers contributed.
Oscar Rothwell had a good all-round day with a solid hurdles followed by the 800m, teaming up with regular team member Fionn O’Murchu. He joined another first-timer Ollie Bradford in the high jump for near-maximum points.
Milo Nutt was on fine form in the javelin and shot, supported by O’Murchu and Bradford, and good runs from middle-distance runners Sam Corbett and Barney McLarnon completed the under-13 squad.
What has characterised the under-15s this season has been their sheer consistency.
This was apparent at Winchester with Emily Russell, Fleur Hollyer and Jess Rayner battling hard in the sprints while the six middle-distance runners performed with credit.
Maggie King and Nicole Boltwood combined well in the 800m with Hannah Carmichael and Amelie Bromell capable reserves while Charlotte Bullard and Nina Moranne battled hard in the 1500m.
Freya Chandler was joined by Hollyer in the hurdles and then threw close to 30m for a narrow runners up spot in the javelin while Alexis Everley, Millie Grant and Maya Solly scored well in the throws , another of the club’s strengths this season
The boys under-15s have developed into a very consistent group over the course of the season. Even with a number of athletes missing, they competed well, aided by the return of some of the strongest under-13s from last season.
Regular sprinter Jacob Piper had his best match of the year and was rewarded by personal best times in both 100m and 200m at 12.2 and 25.5sec.
DJ Barth was joined by newcomer Cameron Mckenzie for near maximum points in the hurdles, then joined another first-timer Joe Broad for the same fine result in the long jump.
Ollie Beach stepped into the 300m and 800m to good effect while Archie Sadler and Zach Entiknapp bravely tackled the 1,500m.
Entiknapp then joined club No1 Sam Spiby in the javelin with Spiby close to 32m.
Dylan Giles was joined for the first time this season by Vinnie Conte-Smith for a fine pairing in the shot put and hammer.
One notable absentee from Chichester’s squad at Winchester was middle-distance runner Liam Dunne, who had been selected to represent Hampshire at the South East Schools Inter-Counties event at Hampshire on Saturday at Basingstoke.
Finishing second overall in a very competitive race against some of the best runners in the South of England and was rewarded with a new personal best of 2min 03.82sec in the 800m, which breaks the club record of Ben Collins of 2.04.4 set in 2015 and has booked Dunne a place in the Hampshire squad at the English Schools championships at Birmingham in July.
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