A 50-strong squad from Chichester Runners capped a fine cross-country season at the Sussex Road Relay Championships at Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham.
The event marked the end of a long campaign which began in autumn saunshine with the cross-country relays at Goodwood in September and saw the city club gain a host of team and individual medals.
Seniors and veterans - men
The senior men’s race always gives clubs a chance to promote their faster under-17s and under-20s into the senior ranks.
Chichester needed replacements for top seniors Jo Corbett and Peter Concannon, who were unavailable, and Chris Zablocki, who missed qualification for the event by a couple of months.
As a result four of Chichester’s six runners were from the junior ranks with James Baker, for many years the youngest in the team, now classed as the elder statesman.
The race started at a fierce pace over the senior lap of just over two miles with under-20 Harry Leleu, just back from a triathlon training camp overseas, given the job of keeping Chichester in touch.
This he did to good effect coming in just after the leading group but giving Baker, on leg two, athletes to chase. Student Conrad Meagher kept up the pace with newcomer Will Boutwood justifying his selection on leg four.
With only a strong Brighton Phoenix squad pulling clear, the remainder of the top ten teams were closely bunched with Chichester in the top six.
Mikey Neville kept up the pace on the penultimate leg to hand over to under-17 Ben Morton, another athlete making his first appearance for the senior team. Only having to give way to a fast finishing Brighton & Hove runner, Morton kept a clear gap to the rest of the field to come home in a fine fifth place for the club.
Zablocki was in action for a non-scoring B team and was joined by juniors Brodie Keates, Benedict Robinson and Callum Easton as well as Nic Fenmor Collins, with Baker having his second run of the day and reserve Nic Palmer running the opening leg for the C team.
Chichester B did well to finish in the middle of the field with Zablocki running one of the fastest individual times of the day at 9min 44sec – two seconds inside the club record.
In the veteran ranks all eyes were on the over-60s where Rob Wiggins, Dave Worcester and Tony Cooley won team silver, just missing out to Brighton Phoenix but keeping up their record of winning medals each year for well over a decade.
Showing the club’s strength in this age group, the B team of Peter Shaw, Jan Hill and Andy Harrop all ran with credit and were in the mix.
There was one great individual run in the over-50s by Jim Garland, who was rewarded with a silver medal just behind GB masters international Keith Newton of Brighton & Hove and matched the individual silver of Wiggins in the polder age group.
Following their fine cross-country season, Chichester’s women were optimistic about challenging for a team medal even though this event is regularly strong attracting the best road and track runners in the county.
Rose Ellis was just off the leading runners on the opening lap but battled hard to keep the team in touch to hand over to Sussex under-17 cross-country champion Karina Bennett.
Chichester were handily placed in the top five and drawing away from the rest. The final leg saw Emily Moore, in her first team competition for the club, chasing down Lewes in the bronze position and overhauling her rival at the halfway stage to bring Chichester home in a fine third place.
For the B team, Sarah Fenmor Collins had a fine leg on lap one just behind the A team and good runs from Annabel Jeffries and Charlotte Reading gave the club its best B-team finish.
For the veterans there was a good team showing for the over-40s with Jane Harrop running the fastest over-50 time on the opening leg to hand over to Linda Roberts and Ann Sydenham, while the over-50s were competitive even without Harrop. Helen Dean, Sue Baker, Sandra Nemorin-Noel and Jill Renson ran well to give Chichester a chance of a team medal.
With the under-17s running with the seniors, focus was on the under-15s and under-13s.
It was the final occasion for many of the under-15s to show form in this age group before moving up to under-17 on the track this summer.
Three athletes in this category were the members of the under-15 boys’ A team who had the chance of making it a unique clean sweep for the club– having already won the Sussex relays in September, the county cross-country championships in January and the overall league title in February.
Will Broom led the team off on lap one and at one stage there were nearly a dozen teams battling for the lead over the 1,850m lap.
Broom’s strength paid off on the latter part of the course to pull away with one other rival to hand over to Leo Stallard in second place but clear of the rest of the field.
Stallard was soon in his stride and swept past the early leader to give final-leg runner Ben Collins a commanding lead which the Sussex double cross-country champion never looked like relinquishing.
At one time Chichester were in sight of the course record but they finished 15 seconds short – though still with one of the fastest times in the event’s 20-year history.
The B team of Ned Potter, Jeremy Sharp and JJ Staples all ran with credit and will be eligible for the same team next season as will Liam Dunne, who had a fine opening leg for the under-13s, while Charlie Sharp ran well on leg two for an incomplete team.
For the girls Xenia Truman, Olivia Wiseman and Caitlin Brown all ran well in the under-15 race but were just outside the medals, with Florence Smith and Amber Dodd running fast times for the B team.
All five runners in the under-13 girls’ squad will be in the same age group next season and gained valuable experience.
The A team of Nina Moranne, Nicole Boltwood and Gracie Bradley-Roberts were in the middle pack for much of the race and performed well against older rivals, with Fleur Hollyer and Rose Potter supporting well for the B team.
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