Cross-country championships give Chichester athletes testing start to year

It was a fine, crisp day which greeted the best cross country runners in Sussex on Saturday.
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However the recent heavy rain had left its mark on the Bexhill venue, leaving parts of the course more like a mudbath once hundreds of pairs of feet had trampled their way over the 10 races in the programme.

Chichester Runners were well represented, particularly among the junior categories.

Juniors

The under-11 girls' race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian LuxfordThe under-11 girls' race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
The under-11 girls' race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
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Chichester’s strong junior section were reckoned to have medal chances in four of out the six team races.

But in the end it was only the under-13 boys who emerged with silverware, with two of the other teams near-misses.

Max Gayle, who has been steadily improving all season, was always near the front of the under-13 boys’ race and with a well-judged finish bagged a seventh place.

That is just outside the five automatic places for the Sussex team for the national Inter-Counties in March but he is in with a real chance of selection due to his consistency over the season.

No346 is Chi's Stanley Wilkes in the U15 race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian LuxfordNo346 is Chi's Stanley Wilkes in the U15 race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
No346 is Chi's Stanley Wilkes in the U15 race at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
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With Brighton and Eastbourne heading the top two team places, there was a battle for bronze medals – with Chichester getting the better of Crawley for a clear third place.

That was thanks to good packing from Joe Stewart and Ivo Edgar in 14th and 15th respectively and Freddie Gay a useful back-up in 21st.

In the under-15 boys’ race, Stanley Wilkes was unlucky to have a heavy fall during the race but picked himself up and came through for a fine seventh place.

Ben Stewart, winner of the December league race at Brighton, did not find the conditions to his liking and had to settle for 10th while Kai Lendrum in 24th just edged out Harry Cruttenden in 26th for the third scoring place, securing fourth team spot.

Chichester's under-13s at Bexhill | Picture: Ian LuxfordChichester's under-13s at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
Chichester's under-13s at Bexhill | Picture: Ian Luxford
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Molly Smithers was back in action for the under-15 girls after a lay-off due to injury and was well satisfied with her 11th place in a very competitive race.

Elodie Hill in 20th and Rose Pemberton 28th brought the team home in fifth place with good runs.

Also in action for the juniors were Isabella Lendrum and Isla Pearson in the under-13 girls’ race, finishing almost together in 16th and 17th respectively.

Five of the club’s under-11 squad made the long journey to the east side of the county.

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Best placed was Alfie Luxford in 10th place in the boys’ race followed by Rocco Hodges in 25th and Rory Parrett in 30th.

For the girls, Poppy Alden was 21st followed closely home by Olivia Pearson in 25th.

Under-17s and under-20s

A feature of Sussex cross country races this season has been the strength of the under-17 men and women.

In the league races, the under-17 women run together with the seniors over the 5k distance and have been at the front of every field.

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But with the seniors running 8k in these championships, it gave the under-17s a chance to make their own mark in their separate race.

With Lewes AC odds-on favourites to win the team race with the top two runners in the county and their third scorer also in the Sussex team, all eyes were on the fight for the minor medals with Worthing, Crawley and Chichester fighting it out place for the places.

Anya Barrett came through the field steadily to finish seventh with Ela Pemberton and Carrie Anelay both having solid runs in 12th and 16th respectively for a team toal of 35 points.

That, agonisingly, saw them just pipped for fourth place in the team standings, just five points behind Worthing and Crawley, who were tied on 30.

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In the men’s race there was good packing from Ben Ward in 26th, Micah Williams 32nd and Monty Hill 33rd for sixth team spot with 91 points.

Both of Chichester’s under-20 representatives notched a top ten finish in their age group with Cerys Dickinson in sixth and Harvey McGuinness eighth with both having a realistic chance of making the county team.

Seniors

It was only 12 months ago that Chichester had its first ever senior county cross country champions with Beth Garland and Ned Potter storming to impressive victories.

Neither was able to defend their title on Saturday and it was left to Imogen Matthews and Mikeey Kwoka to fly the flag for Chichester.

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Matthews was part of the club’s silver medal-winning team last year and improved by a good margin on Saturday to finish in third place and gain her first ever Sussex individual medal.

Natalie Haarer in 22nd was closely followed by under-20 Dickinson, scoring as a senior for the team, with veteran Nadia Anderson completing the scoring in 40th for a team place of sixth.

Fellow veterans Amanda Godfrey in 42nd, Sue Baker 49th and Wendy Whelan 52nd completed the Chichester squad.

Mainly because of other commitments, the club only had three senior men in action with Mikeey Kwoka impfoving all the time to finish 25th with veterans Steve Davy 59th and Peter Anderson 91st.

CHICHESTER 10k

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The 2024 Chichester 10k is on target for more than 1,500 runners expected to hit the start line.

The race, on Sunday, February 4, incorporates the British Masters 10k Championship, so the best age group runners from across the country will be arriving at Goodwood Motor Circuit in search of a national title.

We’ll have more between now and race day.

ROUND-UP

Chichester’s senior athletes have been in action in recent weeks – with no little success.

Just before Christmas the popular Portsmouth Coastal Marathon proved as popuar as ever with over 500 finishers in both the full and the half marathon, while no less that 200 went further to complete the Ultra 50k event.

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With only a handful of competitors in all, the club more than pulled its weight with veteran James Baker much too good for the rest of the field in the marathon.

His time of 2hr 40min 51sec meant he fnished well over a mile – and a full seven minutes – in front of the runner-up.

Then in the ultra, Mikeey Kwoka obliterated his previous best by some margin to finish the 50k in 3.38.40, less than 30 seconds behind the runner-up and incidentally dipping under the three-hour mark for the marathon in the process for the first time.

Just over a week ago some 21 intrepid club members braved the weather to set the ball rolling in the first of the 17 races in the 2024 West Sussex Fun Run League calendar.

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The Hangover 5 from Goring is the usual start for league action – and team manager Peter Anderson was happy that his squad accumulated well over 100 points out of a maximum 125 to keep the club within touching distance of the top spot, having spent the past two seasons as runners-up.

There were four top ten finishers gaining maximum 10 bonus points for the club.

Charlotte Reading and Grace Wills were second and fifth in the women’s race while Mikeey Kwoka and Wesley Adams were fifth and eighth in the men’s contest.