IT’S renowned for its mud – but this year athletes taking part in the Sussex Cross Country League fixture at Bexhill had another challenge to face.
The contest at Bexhill Down, Little Common, was probably the most wind-affected meeting in the history of the league.
The second of this season’s league matches on Saturday was run in virtually non-stop 40mph-plus winds sweeping the course.
Organisers said the real heroes were not the athletes but the team of course-markers and marshals who were out from 8am preparing the route, then acted as officials and cleared the course long after the last runner had finished.
Despite the testing conditions Chichester Runners & AC’s contingent of nearly 50 athletes, including several making their cross-country debuts for the club, produced excellent team and individual performances.
In the now-regular feature of the invitation race for under-11s, Logan Cooper finished 21st, James Bullard 24th and Megan Thomas 51st.
The league action started as usual with the under-13 girls’ race over 3k. Chichester got off to a solid start with fifth team place.
Charlotte Bullard led the A team home in seventh place, improving significantly from her previous year’s placing, with Maggie King and Nina Moranne 22nd and 26th respectively and reserves Nicole Boltwood and Rose Potter running excellently to finish 38th and 46th.
The only under-15 girl running for Chichester was Caitlin Brown, who finished 18th in a good time of 17.33 for her 4k race.
In the boys’ under-13 race, relative newcomers Owen Thomas, William Wells and Jonathan Simmons all ran well over the 3k distance finishing 28th, 36th and 41st respectively and as 11th team – which bodes well for the future.
In the under-15 boys’ race, Ben Collins led Chichester to victory. Collins from start to finish but unlike the race at Goodwood, he had to fight off a couple of other runners. He eventually won by a margin of five seconds in 15.20 over the 4.5k course.
There were storming runs from Will Broom in fifth place and Leo Stallard in 12th giving them a brilliant first position and preserving their front-running place in the series.
There were only 23 seconds separating Chichester’s three runners for the B team with Harry Sage in 29th, a place in front of Jeremy Sharp with Ned Potter next, plus Jack Dean providing good support in 36th place.
The under-17 men had their own race over 5k resulting in a second team place for Chichester which cemented their series position after two races in the four-race series.
Brodie Keates and Luke Campbell battled together throughout with Keates just getting away to finish a place ahead of Campbell in eighth. Completing the team was Benedict Robinson in 13th place and Sam Reading was a valuable back-up in 15th.
Running as usual with the seniors, the under-17 women had an excellent day having the top two runners in this age category and clinching another first place. Grace Wills led the Chichester team home followed closely by Karina Bennett with Amber Westron completing the team in sixth.
Seniors and veterans
With under-17 Grace Wills also scoring for the seniors in 12th place overall, the rest of Chichester’s women’s A team total of 50 points was thanks to fine 5k runs from under-20 Rosie Ellis in eighth place, plus from top over-55 veteran Jane Harrop in 14th and, two places further back, under-20 Charlotte Reading.
This produced an excellent second team place in division one.
It was very creditable second and 14th team places in division two for the B and C strings comprising under-17s Karina Bennett and Amber Westron, Emma Hughes, Jade Elphick, Nadia Anderson and Sue Baker.
The senior men were missing several top runners because of a mix of work and family commitments and injuries so it was left to Chichester’s talisman James Baker to lead the team in the field of just over 150 runners for an 8k race.
Baker did not establish himself in the leading pack at the start but made good progress through the field, ending up in third place. It was the 30th time he had achieved a top-three spot in a Sussex Cross Country League match.
Next home for Chichester was under-20 James McKenzie, on a weekend home from university, in 11th place – a clear winner of the under-20 age group.
The next two home for Chichester were under-20s Harry Pink and Will Kalloway in 48th and 59th.
The A string’s seventh place in division one was completed by veteran John Bullard in 84th and Derry Lozano-Hoyland in 94th.
Next three runners home were over-60 David Worcester, Jason Boswell and over-60 Tom Blaylock to clinch seventh team place in division three.
The C team packed very closely together with only 20 seconds separating Andrew Wingham, over-60 Tony Cooley and Dave Reading. Over-70 Paddy Clark, over-60 Peter Shaw and Peter Anderson brought home the D team to round off an excellent day for Chichester Runners.
Now, Sussex cross-country runners have just two weeks’ rest before the third fixture, at the tough Lancing Manor venue on December 5.
With just one fixture after that in 2016 at new venue Hickstead, it will be vital for all teams to be at full strength to further establish their positions in the various league standings.
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