Some 500 of the best cross-country runners in Sussex had a fine day’s racing at Goodwood.
The top runners in each age group gave an indicator of early-season form to the county selectors while bidding for team placings – with many of the favourites already in the frame for team medals.
Hosts Chichester Runners & AC had a record turnout of 85 runners across eight races and the top performers gave the club their best all-round performance ever seen at this early stage of the season.
Chichester were defending champions but wondered if the loss of a couple of key athletes now at university would weaken the squad.
The A quartet came a close third behind 2015 champions Lewes and a vastly-improved Brighton Phoenix team.
Chichester were led home by top under-20 runner Karina Bennett in a fine seventh place followed by Emily Moore in 15th, Grace Wills 18th (fifth under-17) and Jane Harrop 20th, top over-55.
For the B team there was excellent packing from newcomer Alice Wright in 23rd, Sarah Loy 27th, Alice Cox-Rusbridge 32nd (ninth under-17) and Florence Smith 39th (12th under-17). This resulted in sixth place for the B team in the first division and was part of the best-ever in-depth performance from Chichester’s women, who had another 13 finishers – Annaliese Shaw 41st; Sophie Wright 53rd, Annabel Jeffries 55th, Helen Dean 67th, Persephone Hagan 76th, Tracy Lockyer 79th, Nadia Anderson 84th, Rachel Laurie 89th, Jill Renson 92nd, Lynette Woodward 96th, Rachel Austin 101st, Sandra Nemorin-Noel 103rd and Liz Wingham 107th.
The under-17 team of Wills, Cox-Rusbridge and Smith are second in their own age group while the veteran trio of Harrop, Loy and Dean lie third.
Chichester’s men wanted to put up a good show having been relegated from the top division last season.
They put in a solid performance with runners-up spot in division two in one of the two promotion places with Hastings.
James Baker made a cautious start but moved through the field from a position of just outside the top 30 early on to eighth place at the finish.
Conrad Meagher, still in his early 20s, had probably his best cross-country run to date, finishing 12th, while Jim Garland was 50th and fourth in the over-50s.
Uni student Joe Godwood impressed in his first race for the club in 72nd to give Chichester a points total of 141, behind Hastings on 111.
Chichester’s men also had strength in depth with Rob Wiggins 80th (second over-60), Simon Ludlam 87th, Ian Barnett 93rd, Keith Akerman 96th, Richard Pullen 97th, Jason Boswell 100th, Ho Phulphan 102nd, Dave Reading 121st, Mike Moorcroft 122nd, Tom Blaylock 124th, Andrew Wingham 125th, Chris Tucker 127th, Craig Bowdery 135th, Peter Anderson 152nd.
Fresh from their county gold-medal run in the cross-country relays two weeks earlier, Chichester’s under-17 men just failed to lead the team rankings but just a single point separated them from early leaders Brighton & Hove.
A small group established itself at the front of the field with Will Broom and Ben Collins up with the pace in the five-man breakaway.
The group was never in danger from the rest of the field and Broom just failed to make it a double first having been the fastest Sussex runner in the recent relays with a runners-up spot on this occasion behind his Horsham rival. Collins is getting back to form with a fine fifth and Charlie Benson was 20th with reserve Benedict Robinson 26th making it a good team showing for Chichester.
After showing good form on the track over the summer, Chichester under-15s were determined to make a good start to the cross-country season.
With a squad of 16 runners they were able to put both their boys and girls A and B teams into the top eight making them the day’s most successful under-15 squad.
For the boys Alex Mani and Liam Dunne were part of an early group of seven runners who pulled clear and stayed together for virtually the whole race. It needed sprint finishes from the pair to claim fourth and sixth spots.
Harry Sage was the club’s third scorer for the A team to finish 16th, giving Chichester 26 points, level with Brighton in second and beaten only by a Crawley trio.
Ned Potter led the B team home in 22nd with James Gardam in 27th and JJ Staples 31st for eighth team place. Jeremy Sharp in 37th and David Bisatt in 41st were capable reserves.
In the girls’ race there was a similar pack formed at the front of about eight runners who quickly established clear daylight over the rest with Olivia Wiseman and Charlotte Bullard in the leading group.
Over the second half of the race the pack split, leaving Wiseman and her Hastings rival to sprint for the line with the Chichester athlete winning by two seconds.
Bullard in eighth was followed by Hannah Anwyl in 14th for a team total of 23 points, just behind Hastings and Brighton Phoenix and well clear of the rest.
Caitlin Brown led the B team home in 24th followed by Rosie Sloane in 26th and Annie Gibson 27th with reserves Chloe Benson and Ashleigh Jenkins both doing well in their first cross-country races for the club.
Chichester’s under-13s had mixed fortunes with the girls in the top five but the boys missing several key athletes and the only Chichester team to finish outside the top ten, in 13th place.
Nina Moranne was the top under-13 runner on the track in the summer and continued her form into the cross-country season with a fine eighth place, less than a minute behind the winner. Nicole Boltwood in 16th and Isobel Buchler 19th ran well to give a total of 43 points but they were just ten points behind the second-placed team.
For the B team in a fine ninth overall, Eva Buchler was 23rd, Cerys Dickinson 26th and Hannah Carmichael 29th followed by the C team of Roes Potter 37th, Katya Katalinic 41st and Fleur Hollyer 42nd.
Archie Sadler was 18th in a competitive boys’ race, supported by Sam Corbett in 47th and Charlie Sharp 50th, with reserves Sammy Copeland in 51st and William Wills in 55th.
There was an invitation race for under-11s before the main programme with a good field of 47 competitors in a mixed race.
Fionn O’Murchu was first home for Chichester in a fine second place just six seconds behind the winner. Logan Cooper 16th followed by Barney Mclarnon in 22nd, Archie Coughtrey 24th, Harry Trafford 26th, Eden Littlefair 29th, Marcus Bone 31st, Grace Bishop 33rd, Adam Mainwaring 35th, Lucy Hollyer 43rd, Fraser Budd 44th and Lucy Burborough 47th.
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