Eastbourne Rovers shine at southern cross-country finals – awards plentiful for Hastings Runners

Eastbourne Rovers were out in force at the South East Cross Country Championships held at Beckenham Place Park.
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It is a major fixture on the athletics calendar with thousands of athletes competing from across the southern half of England.

Eastbourne’s U13 boys clinched silver team medals. Joshua Webster set a hard pace from the gun and finished 15th, with team-mates Byron Roberts 27th, Adam Meyer 36th and Archie Franklin 37th.

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Talented track and fielder Aidan Pringle made his debut at Beckenham in the U13 race and came 118th out of a vast field of 174.

Eastbourne duo Freda Pearce (9th) and Daisy Connor (4th) in the U15 girls' race at Beckenham | Contributed photoEastbourne duo Freda Pearce (9th) and Daisy Connor (4th) in the U15 girls' race at Beckenham | Contributed photo
Eastbourne duo Freda Pearce (9th) and Daisy Connor (4th) in the U15 girls' race at Beckenham | Contributed photo

Daisy Connor showed her strength in the U15 girls’ race, missing out on a podium place by a whisker in fourth. She and the rest of the quartet claimed bronze medals.

Freda Pearce was ninth, Raya Petrova 19th, with Lexie Mclean helping to clinch the medals, finishing strongly in 91st. Team-mate Katy Brown ran well in 114th.

Fin Lumber-Fry had a superb run for 11th and still has another year in the U15 category. George Armstrong-Smith had a fine debut at Beckenham, placing 46th.

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Team-mates Jonah Messer and Ben Wright ran well, helping them place eighth despite just returning from injury and health issues.

Eastbourne's U15 boys' team (finished 8th) - Fin Lumber - Fry, George Armstrong - Smith, Jonah Messer and Ben Wright | Picture contributedEastbourne's U15 boys' team (finished 8th) - Fin Lumber - Fry, George Armstrong - Smith, Jonah Messer and Ben Wright | Picture contributed
Eastbourne's U15 boys' team (finished 8th) - Fin Lumber - Fry, George Armstrong - Smith, Jonah Messer and Ben Wright | Picture contributed

Fintan Pearce set out hard from the gun in the U17 boys’ race placing 46th, with Ilya Korchev 57th, Dermot O Rourke 122nd and Kaleb Berhane 136th.

Others worthy of mentions included Chyna Wai in the U13 girls’ race – she was 98th. Returning from a long spell out injured, Ellie Mclean had a fine run in the U20 ladies’ race, placing 37th.

Eleanor Stevens held her pace in the same race to place 16th.

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James Stephen paced his U20 men’s race race well to push through the field to position a respectable 56th.

Some of the many Hastings Runners award winners | Picture contributedSome of the many Hastings Runners award winners | Picture contributed
Some of the many Hastings Runners award winners | Picture contributed

James Jewell was racing for the University of Southampton among the U20 men and held his ground to position high up the field in 50th

Coach Chris Voice said “The athletes raced strongly at this highly competitive event, beating some of the elite clubs in British athletics.

"It was a great experience for them, especially with approaching major events such as the English schools and national championships – a brilliant day’s racing after months of hard training.”

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Two Eastbourne Rovers sprinters have had busy spells, travelling to Eton and Lee Valley for popular competitions.

Bryn Smith ready to go | Contributed pictureBryn Smith ready to go | Contributed picture
Bryn Smith ready to go | Contributed picture

Nathan Burge competed in the Eton open meeting in the U15 boys’ 60m. In his first race he got off to a brilliant start and came second in a personal best of 7.59 seconds. He improved this still further in the second round finishing first and shaving .03sec off to finish in 7.56sec.

The following weekend saw him donning his spikes again in the South of England U15 Championships. With the possibility of three rounds Burge paced himself well in the heat to breeze through the line in 7.86 to secure a place in the semi- final. He had to work harder in this 60m clinching 3rd place in 7.74.

As he lined up for the final against the fastest in the south he stormed out of the blocks and finished sixth equalling his previous time. This is a fantastic result putting him second in the South East and first in Sussex.

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Nathan is following in the footsteps of senior Bryn Smith who is a perfect role model. Smith competed in the London Games in the Senior 60m. In this event the fastest runners are seeded in the first race so Smith claimed his place and sprinted through in fourth position in 7.01.

He gained another fourth in the second round and improved his time to dip under the ‘magic’ seven-second barrier to clock 6.99 – a great opener for the season. Smith is fourth in the south east, first in Sussex.



For once abandoning the colours of green and black, members of Hastings Runners dressed up for the club’s annual dinner, prize-giving and social evening held at the Azur.

Indicating both the age range and enthusiasm of the membership, compere Andy Knight announced 10 female and nine male age-category winners in the 2023 Club Championship and honoured 76 people who picked up a trophy for completing in eight or more races in the championship calendar of 23 events.

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These ranged from three 5ks and numerous 10ks, through a variety of off-road cross-country events, to the town’s half marathon.

The series was kicked off by February’s Brenda Boyle Pier To Pier race which entrants run the 16-miles plus along the coast from Eastbourne to Hastings.

Female age category winners were: Zoe Habgood (Senior Female), Claire Thomas (MV35), Tamsin West (FV40), Jo Lambourne (FV45), Sue Wilkinson (FV50), Ruth Spiller (FV55), Susan Mann (FV60), Irene Kitson (FV65), Sarah Marzaioli (FV70) and evergreen Yockie Richardson (FV75). Male winners were: Matt Draper (Senior), Will Withecombe (MV35), Simon Linklater (MV40), Stuart Johnstone (MV45), Kieran Price (MV50), Darren Barzee (MV55), Kevin Blowers (MV60), Bill Edmondson (MV65) and Terry Kitson (MV70).

Andy Knight then moved on to the highest overall points scorers in the club championship – saluted for their pace, consistency and dedication. Winner of the female title was Zoe Habgood followed by Tamsin West in second and Claire Thomas third. Male champion was Will Withecombe, followed by runner-up Matt Draper and Ashley Vora.

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Hastings Runners prides itself on welcoming all runners, not just the fastest. To this end, the club’s coaches and run leaders voted for 11 recipients of Merit Awards – for commitment and determination both personal and to the wider club.

Winners were: Alison Anderson, Adrian Barrett, Sean Dwyer, Stuart Johnstone, Catherine Jones, Ben McNeil, Ellie Miller, Martin Noakes, Ashley Vora, Tracy Ratnarajah and Christine Sanderson.

There were Achiever Awards for Fleur Record–Smith, Matt Draper and Trevor Briggs and trophies for Susan Mann (for organising the club visit to Belgium), Terry Kitson (nominated by HR chief marshall Alan Croucher), Paul Hope (awarded by cross-country captain David Bratby).

The Wilf Gaye Trophy went jointly to Andy Alabaster and Sue Hull, track stalwart Mark Dunn collected the Endeavour Trophy and club secretary Andy Lee was awarded the Founders Trophy.

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Finally, trophies sponsored by McPhersons Chartered Accountants: Beginner Runners Award ( to Rachel Gower), Most Promising Newcomer (Chris Fowler), Charity Fundraising Award (Joe Cruttenden), Perseverance Awards for Sue Palmer, Catherine Southgate and Craig Weeks and Support Champions Awards to Keith Goodsell and Bob Dennis.