Worst ever conditions? Chichester cross country team unfazed by mud and rain
The forecast was wet; the forecast was windy. The Met office was right. Some of the worst ever conditions greeted Chicheter Runner and all their rival clubs for the Sussex Cross Country Championships at Bexhill.
Heavy rain during the week and incessant rain throughout the 10 races in the programme produced a strength-sapping test of endurance for the 500-plus runners.
But despite the conditions, there was some outstanding competition of the highest quality through the day with Chichester athletes battling in all the age groups.
The juniors came away with overall third place in the combined under-13, under-15 and under-17 standings and were only beaten by powerhouses Brighton and Crawley.
The seniors were well below full strength but all those who competed gave a good account of themselves.
In addition a couple of the club’s athletes manfully completed the course having lost a shoe early into their respective races – neither gave up and in one case the runner concerned helped secure a team medal by a single point.
The under-13 girls got Chichester’s day off to a fine start with a hard-fought sixth place in the team standings.
Elodie Hill led the club home in 10th place which gives her a chance of making the Sussex team later in the season. Next to finish was Iona Sherwood in 20th followed by Grace Howarth who battled to finish in 35th to complete the team.
In the boys’ race Matthew Mainwaring produced an excellent seventh place while Harry Dunne was 18th.
In between came Stanley Wilkes who would have expected to have been well inside the top 10 but finished 12th. Only after crossing the finishing line did Wilkes reveal he had lost a shoe in the clinging mud early in the race and had to run nearly all the 3,000m course with just one shoe. Despite this the brave athlete stuck to his task and his hard-fought 12th enabled the trio to snatch team bronze medals by a single point from their nearest challengers.
The two under-15 races were the most closely fought of the day with both Chichester teams just edged out of the medals.
It was good to see the under-15 girls quartet back to full strength although all but one had missed several weeks of training through illness or injury.
Ela Pemberton led the way in 14th ahead of team-mate Carrie Annelay in 16th. Anya Barrett was close behind in 21st and Florence Ingram hot on her heels in 23rd.
Their team score was just seven points behind the silver medallists, a fine result.
The boys packed well to finish sixth with Josh Dunne, getting back to fitness, in 13th followed by Ben Ward in 17th and Alessandro Schmitt, 22nd.
They had good back-up with Noah Collins in 34th and Monty Hill 45th.
Under-17 men and women
Chichester’s under-17 women’s squad wanted to repeat their bronze finish in the Goodwood Relays but a fantastic team performance enabled them to go one better.
Cerys Dickinson produced sixth place for likely selection for the Sussex Inter-Counties.
Isabelle Isitt and Marcie Faggeter had their best runs of the season in 12th and 13th with Gemma Appleton a solid back-up in 17th. Chichester tied with Brighton and were behind winners Crawley so it was the position of the last scoring runner that clinched silver.
One disappointment was that all three members of the under-17 men’s team had not recovered from illness meaning that none felt able to tackle the gruelling 5k course, a pity as Chichester’s under-17 men had so convincingly won the Goodwood relays event earlier in the season.
Senior men and women
Both Chichester senior teams were depleted at Bexhill.
In the event it was veterans Nadia Anderson and Wendy Whelan who flew the flag for the club in the women’s race in 33rd and 59th place respectively, with Whelan, in her 70s, having the distinction of being the oldest runner in the race.
Chichester’s men, on paper, had a real chance of team medals but they had three of their top runners available and were thankful to the commitment of three of their older veterans to ensure they had a scoring team of six.
Ned Potter was among the favourites for an individual medal and was prominent in the early stages but illness over Christmas had sapped some of his strength and the Loughborough-based athlete had to be content with fifth and automatic selection for the Sussex team in March.
James Baker decided to make a steady start on the five-lap course of 2,000m per lap but used all his experience to scythe his way through the field to finish a fine 14th, the first veteran to cross the line.
Ben Morton, another of the club’s university athletes, was close behind in 17th while new club chairman Jim Garland led the three veterans in 81st followed by Tim Brown in 103rd and Peter Anderson in 109th to maintain Chichester’s record of completing a men’s team in every year of their history since 1985.
In the same race on a shorter 8k course, under-20 Callum Lorimer showed fighting spirit by running virtually all his 8k course with one shoe, ensuring all 30 Chichester competitors crossed the finish line.