Chichester athletes shine at Sussex masters cross-country

What a change from the torrential rain and driving wind of two weeks earlier – a fine day with excellent, fast conditions underfoot greeted veteran runners for the Sussex Masters Cross Country Championships at Lancing on Saturday.

With a tough but fair 8k course for men and women, the dry grassland surface made for some exhilarating running.

That was nowhere more evident than in the final race of the day, the over-40 men’s event. It also provided a great spectacle for the Chichester contingent as the pairing of James Baker and Mike Houston proved much too good for the rest of the field from across Sussex.

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A clear gap had been established after the first of the two long laps and the pair continued to move away from the rest. While cross country distances are only ever approximate, Baker crossed the finish line in an impressive time of 25min 53sec with Houston having one of his best ever races a mere nine seconds behind.

Mike Houston and James Baker were in fine form in the Masters

There followed a gap of over a minute before the third placed athlete from Lewes finished and almost another minute before the fourth placer from Brighton Phoenix crossed.

The result was a replica of the one-two finish of the pair two weeks earlier in the New Year’s Day West Sussex Fun Run League.

Baker had ‘warmed up’ for Saturday’s race by popping down to win the Southsea parkrun in a time of 15.45, just 10 seconds outside the 45-year-old’s best and one of the fastest times across the UK.

With four to score, Steve Davy and Philip Carr provided solid back-up in 43rd and 47th respectively for sixth team place overall.

A trio of Chichester Runners at Lancing / Picture: Peter Anderson

Earlier in the day, the over-50, 60 and 70 men’s race had started proceedings and there was some fine running from Chichester’s most senior competitors.

Richard Miles led the over 60/70 team home in an excellent fith place, followed by John Miles in 30th, which gave the latter a superb third place in the over-70 rankings and a well-deserved Sussex bronze medal.

Peter Dunne completed the scoring for the A team in 33rd and was closely followed by Wim Amir and Tom Blaylock who led the B team home in 35th and 38th respectively.

It was Chichester’s second over-70, Peter Shaw, who completed the scoring in 42nd place, seventh in his own category. In the same race there were valiant performances from Chichester’s two over-50 athletes, Tim Brown and Peter Anderson, who finished 38th and 45th in their age group.

In the women’s race, also run over the 8k course of two laps, the club was led home by top over-35 Fay Cripps who so nearly emerged with an individual medal finishing a close fifth in her age group.

There was a 14th place for Elizabeth Robinson in the over-45 race. As far as team medal prospects were concerned, all eyes were on the combined over 55/65 age group and Nadia Anderson had one of her best ever runs to stride home for a fine individual bronze medal in the over-55s.

Less than a minute behind was Helen Dean who had such a magnificent 2021 in road races. The 65-year-old was over seven minutes ahead of her nearest rival in her age group, a huge margin in a county championships, and also finished fifth in the combined 55/65 team race.

At this point Chichester and the two Brighton clubs, Arena 80 and Brighton & Hove, were all in with a chance of team medals but pre-race favourites Arena snatched team gold.

Brighton closed in the three scorers with ninth place and it was up to Sue Barty to not let a gap more than two places develop.

Heading to the line, Barty was neck and neck in the battle for 11th and 12th and a last gasp lunge for the line secured fine team silver for Chichester, a single point in front of Brighton & Hove in third.

There was a full Chichester B team to finish led by Tracy Lockyear in 14th, followed by a good 17th from Sue Baker, making not only a family double but winning individual bronze in the process.

Reliable Wendy Whelan showed age is no barrier –the 73-year-old was fourth over-65 over the line and brought home the B team in an overall 20th place.

All in all it was a good medal count from the 20-strong squad.