THE Sussex schools cross-country championships have gone from strength to strength since switching to a midweek date in 2014 – and more than 600 athletes lined up for the 2016 races at Waterhall, Brighton.
West Sussex West athletes were rewarded with one outright race win, a clutch of individual medals and several more who will be in contention for selection for the English schools championships in Nottingham.
There was a fine all-round showing from Bishop Luffa with two team medals and they narrowly missed out on another two, making them one of the most successful schools on the day.
In the intermediate boys’ race, a Chichester athlete struck gold. Ben Collins from Chichester High School had won the junior boys’ race last year and was full of confidence from victory in the Sussex club under-15 championships ten days earlier. However the presence of runners from the year above was an unknown factor.
As the race progressed five of the Year 10 runners swept to the front of the field including three local runners, with Bishop Luffa pairing Will Broom and Leo Stallard in the mix.
Two more from the same school were in the top 12 giving Luffa what looked to be an unassailable lead in the team race with four to score.
Coming round to finish the first of the two long laps, Broom pulled up with a muscle strain leaving Collins, Stallard, a Brighton athlete and a Seaford Head runner to pull clear.
Collins gradually increased the pressure to cross the line three seconds clear of Tarrango from Brighton College with Stallard a fine fourth and with it automatic selection for the Sussex team.
Ben Morton was having his race of the season in seventh followed by Luke Campbell from Luffa in 12th.
Needing a fourth scorer following the withdrawal of Broom, Adam Long battled to the line in 54th giving a total of 72 points, just five behind winners Forest and a crucial two points in front of Brighton College in third.
In the junior boys’ race there were no individual stars locally but fine team packing from Bishop Luffa gave them another team silver.
Ned Potter was first home in 28th out of a large field of 166 finishers, followed by Jeremy Sharp in 34th, James Gardam 43rd, and JJ Staples 48th for 153 points with reserve Harry Smith in 58th.
Brighton College won the team event with 141 points with Luffa second, just squeezing Cardinal Newman into third on countback.
In the junior girls’ race there was individual success for local schools with a battle between the top two – in a repeat of the West Sussex West trials in November.
With a sprint finish determining the outcome, Seaford College pupil Olivia Mcdonald just got the better of Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa after a thrilling race between the pair.
In the largest field of the day with 182 finishers, Chichester High School, Midhurst Rother and Lavant House entered teams or individuals.
Charlotte Bullard from Chichester High School was next home in tenth followed by Lily de Lacy from Midhurst Rother in 16th, Xenia Truman from Seaford College 21st and Holly Heffron from Bishop Luffa in 27th.
Two more athletes made the top 50 with Ella Howard from Midhurst Rother in 43rd, one place in front of Maggie King from Bishop Luffa whose fourth scorer Amber Dodd was 79th to give them a team total of 153 points, identical to the boys but just outside the medals in fourth place.
With nearly 100 finishers, the intermediate girls’ race was the best for numbers for many years.
Grace Wills from Bishop Luffa was always in touch with the leading group of a dozen or so athletes and showed good recovery after a fall in the previous race. She steadily moved through the field to finish in fourth place, another to gain automatic selection for Nottingham and just a couple of seconds behind third place at the line.
Team-mates Millie Rodwell and Alice Cox-Rusbridgein came 19th and 26th but the lack of a fourth runner meant a team medal was missed.
The two senior races went off together with the girls finishing at the end of the first long lap while the boys set off for another arduous circuit.
The senior girls’ race proved almost as dominant for local athletes as the intermediate boys had done earlier.
In-form Martha Coyle from Cardinal Newman made her usual fast start with Rose Ellis from Chichester College content to run her own race in second, while Karina Bennett from Bishop Luffa and Charlotte Reading from Seaford College were content to stay in the next pack.
After nearly 20 minutes of running, Ellis crossed the line clear in second after Coyle – with both Bennett and Reading scything through the field to finish an excellent fourth and fifth respectively with all three certain to be part of the Sussex team.
In the senior boys’ race there was an opportunity to see the latest Sussex international in action with Brighton’s Stephen Ferroni content on this occasion to run alongside Brodie Denholm to the finish.
Ferroni was saving himself for his first GB junior race but in such company, Harry Pink ran a solid race to finish seventh while Zac Hurst led home a quartet of runners from Chichester College in 14th.
* There was more glory for Chichester in the Sussex Masters cross-country championships at Lancing Manor at the weekend. Details in next week’s Chichester Observer.
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