Road relays see Chichester end winter season on high note

Chichester's under-13 girls at the road relays
Chichester's under-13 girls at the road relays

A squad of 55 enabled Chichester to come away with a very satisfactory end to the winter team season on a perfect day for distance running at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham.

It has been the venue for the Sussex Road Relays for 20 years and again witnessed exciting racing from many of the top county runners.

After nearly four hours of racing Chichester came away with a haul of five team medals and four runners with medals for fastest laps including one gold for one of the best overall runs of the day.

The relays provide an excellent opportunity for distance runners to test their speed at the end of a gruelling winter.

After nearly four hours of racing Chichester came away with a haul of five team medals and four runners with medals for fastest laps including one gold for one of the best overall runs of the day.

Under-13 boys and girls

Racing started with the under-13s and for the first time, boys and girls ran separately to accommodate the numbers.

In the girls’ race, Eva Buckler had the opening leg and gave Chichester a good start with a time of 6min 47sec for the 1,850m course to hand over to twin sister Isobel, who was six seconds faster for third fastest lap overall to give her an individual bronze medal.

Tamsin Anelay stepped up to the mark in her first county championship appearance for the club. She battled hard over her lap to bring the club home as third Sussex team to give the club a grand slam in the age group over the season.

Starting with a gold medal at the Goodwood cross country relays in September, silver followed at the championships at Bexhill in January and a league team bronze in February and finally the road relay bronze here.

The under-13 boys’ team could not quite match the girls but did remarkably well to finish fifth as they were without their top three runners of the season Joe McLarnon, Fionn O’Murchu and Oli Fuller.

The newcomers who replaced them ran to their best with Harvey McGuiness and Hal Edgar among the top 11 times of the day from nearly 90 athletes in the age group. With Gabryel White on the final leg, they were less than a minute behind the silver medallists.

Josh Dunne and Samuel Tonks had their first taste of inter-club competition and held their own among the older competitors and with two more years in the age group show great promise for the future. A solid run by Arthur Dearlove brought them home in 15th.

Under-15 boys and girls

The under-15 boys’ race provided the most thrilling finish with Chichester in the middle of the action. James Gardam recorded an opening lap of 5.43 for the 1,850m junior lap as the under-13s, the tenth fastest of the day.

George Ashby kept the club in touch with the leading pack and handed over to Dunne in seventh place, just over 40 seconds behind the leaders.

Dunne used his racing experience to gradually reduce the gap and with 800m left it had narrowed to just under 20 seconds but Dunne found himself fourth with the top seven teams still separated by just over 100m.

Over a fast downhill run into the finish Dunne moved into third and was nearly up to the leading two teams but the Hastings and Crawley athletes hung on with a few seconds to spare. Dunne was awarded the individual gold medal for the fastest lap of the day at 5.20, the third fastest ever and a new club record.

With Chichester’s best turnout of the season in this age group there was a good showing from Leon Heard, Eden Murphy and Bradley Holder, all three making their first appearance in the event and finishing in the top ten.

It was one place better for the under-15 girls’ team with Maggie King, Nicole Boltwood and Nina Moranne making up the A team and reserve Rose Potter recording a steady individual time.

Senior and veteran women

So many teams entered the senior and veteran women’s race that it need two starting times, with the seniors letting the over-50 women go first.

Jane Harrop was first to show in the over-50 field in her return after a long lay-off. She swept round the senior undulating course of just over two miles in 13.22, the second fastest of the day.

Helen Dean kept Chichester in the lead on leg two and recorded the best over-60 time of the day. Kim Nelson had the job of bringing the team home and was eighth fastest overall, but had to give way to the strong Arena runner.

She hung on well for second place to confirm a well-earned team silver. There was a good seventh place from the B team of Amanda Godfrey, Nadia Anderson and Sue Baker. The over-40 team of Vicky Balandis, Elaine Cruttenden and Liz Wingham ended 15th.

The seniors set off at a fast pace with Chichester led off by Lucy Thraves. She handed the baton to Beth Garland after a lap of 12.09, the ninth fastest of the day from 160-plus women runners.

Garland carved her way through the field and handed over with a lead of more than half a minute after a leg of 11.25, the second fastest of the day to take an individual silver.

Rebecca Moore set off to try to gain Chichester’s first win in a Sussex road relay competition but was aware Brighton Phoenix had saved their best runner until last.

Moore battled hard and led coming into the final stretch but with 100m to go the Phoenix runner swept past to give her team victory by just four seconds – the only athlete to break the 11-minute barrier with a time of 10.57, the third fastest ever in 25 years.

Chichester’s trio broke the club record for their second place with all three runners in the top ten overall. For the B team Sophie Wright led the team off followed by two of the club’s under-17s, Alice Cox-Rusbridge and Beth Brown, to finish 14th.

Rebecca Brown and Emma Wickens ran for an incomplete C team.

Senior and veteran men

Chichester’s over-40 men gained the best result of the day. Keith Akerman led them off, followed by David Ashby and Steve Davy, to hand over to Simon Dunne, the third member of his family to don his club vest.

Dunne ensured an unexpected team bronze for the quartet with the fastest lap of the four in 11.54. Jason Snow and Peter Anderson ran for an incomplete B team.

Running a time which would have been second fastest in the over 40 team, Jim Garland led the over-50s with a 12.06 clocking, followed by John Bullard and Gary Wright for ninth place.

The B team of Andrew Wingham, Richard Ayling and John Bullard finished 14th. There was another top-ten placing in the over-60s thanks to Tom Blaylock, Andrew Harrop and Peter Shaw.

One disappointment for Chichester was the unavailability of many of the senior team, leaving the club with only five runners.

Those who ran competed well and highlighted the emergence of the youth element in the club. Under-17s Ned Potter and Ben Collins got the club ito a good positon over the first two legs with Collins’ time of 10.48 the fastest by any Chichester athlete over the senior course.

Under-20s Ben Morton and Brodie Keates kept things moving to hand over to Om Phulpham on leg five with veteran John Bullard stepping up in his second run of the day.

PHIL BAKER