The final national cross country event of the season, the English schools championships held at Leeds, saw local runners played a major part in giving Sussex one of their best all-round team performances in recent years.
The organisers deserve credit for allowing the event to go ahead in bitterly cold winds and with snow forecast.
In an event to rival the national clubs and inter-counties championships, athletes from 45 counties and areas sent teams to Leeds ensuring the quality of the races was second to none.
There were two team medals for Sussex, one of which was in the senior boys’ race, where Will Broom from Bishop Luffa ran the race of his life to lead the county home in a superb 20th place, the second-best placing of any Sussex athlete on the day.
He was followed by another four team-mates in the top 80, one of whom was schoolmate Leo Stallard in an impressive 67th, giving the county a scoring-six total of 312 points.
That was behind winners North Yorkshire and a handful of points behind arch rivals Hampshire in second but crucially more than 20 in front of pre-race favourites Surrey to clinch bronze.
In the same race, Bishop Luffa’s Ben Morton was eighth scorer for Sussex in 190th position.
There was another Chichester athlete leading Sussex home in the seniors girls’ race with Imogen Matthews, having shaken off her recent injury, storming through the field to finish 68th.
Making it five out of five for the Luffa squad, Beth Brown was just outside the county scoring team in 291st place for seventh Sussex athlete home.
In the intermediate girls’ race two local athletes were first and second Sussex runners home with Olivia Macdonald from Seaford College in 28th just ahead of Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa in 31st.
These two spearheaded a great team performance to finish just behind winners Surrey on 321 points and London with 339.
The Sussex total of 363 was well in front of fourth-placed Hampshire on 428 to gain team bronze.
In the intermediate boys’ race Ned Potter was another to continue his fine 2018 form with 59th place – the third Sussex runner to finish.
In the same race, Liam Dunne, another Chichester-based athlete, finished 127th for the Hampshire team as a pupil of Bohunt School. Dunne ran well in his first year in the age group and just lost out as the sixth scoring member for Hampshire by the thickness of a vest, both athletes being given the same time.
There was just one local athlete in the junior age groups, with Ethan Ward from Felpham CC finishing third scorer in the boys’ race for Sussex in 54th position and helping the county to a top-ten team place.
The junior girls’ race saw the best individual placing for Sussex with Eastbourne-based Bethany Cook in second place overall, with Olivia Toms not being able to take her place in the squad through injury.
At the end of an exhausting day, joint team manager Tim Brown from Bishop Luffa was delighted with the performance of the whole Sussex squad who finished with an aggregate total to put them seventh out of nearly 50 teams, which keeps them in the top division for another year.
Two of Chichester’s seniors on top form
Two of Chichester’s top seniors who have been showing fine form on the streets in the Corporate Challenge showed great form over longer distances, winning the two events by a combined total of nearly 25 minutes.
It is no surprise that one of the two runners was James Baker, who recorded his sixth win in the multi-terrain Jog Shop 20-miler near Brighton.
His winning time for this tough test of stamina was 2hr 4min 5sec, just 24 seconds outside his own course record and more than 13 minutes in front of the next finisher.
Mike Houston was on the road in the Cranleigh 15. Finishing in 86.28, the Chichester runner was the only athlete to break the 90-minute barrier and was more than 11 minutes in front of the runner-up.
Along with other half-marathons at this time of year, the Cranleigh and Jog Shop races have provided good preparation for the spring marathon season with both Chichester athletes looking well set.
Track season almost here
Several track and field athletes have kept busy over the indoor winter programme while others have been fighting the wind and mud of the cross-country fixtures.
But all will be shortly in action in the summer league programme, with Chichester Runners & AC competing once again in five track leagues.
The senior squad, who comprise under-17s and under-20s as well as seniors and veterans, will be the first in action at Andover on Saturday, April 14, for their first match in the Southern Athletics League for both men and women.
On Saturday, April 21, the combined under-15 and under-13 squad will travel to the K2 Stadium in Crawley for the lower age group National Youth Development League fixture.
Having been crowned league champions in division two for the past two seasons, Chichester find themselves in the company of Guildford & Godalming, Horsham, Kingston, Dorset and Winchester.
With a number of last year’s squad still eligible plus a batch of new members, the club are confident of being able to be a competitive part of the higher division.
On Sunday, April 29, the upper age group of the National League for under-17s and under-20s travel to Kings Park, Bournemouth, where the opposition will come from Bournemouth & New Forest, Brighton & Hove, Southampton and Dorset.
In addition there will be also fixtures in the Sussex under-15 and under-13 leagues which always provide an excellent platform for athletes of all standards, especially newcomers to the sport.
Full details can be found on the Chichester Runners and the Sussex county websites or by contacting team manager Phil Baker at email@example.com