It was the Hastings and Lewes Athletic Clubs who created the major surprises at the Sussex Cross Country championships at Bexhill Down on Saturday.Conditions for racing were excellent with little sign of the heavy mud that usually greets the runners when they arrived at the Bexhill course and I cannot remember such a mild course at this time of the year in the sixty years that I have been watching cross-country racing at Bexhill Down.
Normally the accent is on the individuals at this event but Saturday racing certainly highlighted the team events with particular emphasis on the senior races.
The absence of several leading individuals meant that both the Individual and team events were thrown wide open and Hastings and Lewes notched up their first Sussex senior team titles at these championships.
It was very match a team effort for the Hastings Club in the men’s event as the first of their scoring six runners, James Mountford finished in eighth place after the defending champions Brighton & Hove and Brighton Phoenix, the main protagonists, had already got a couple of runners home.
Rhys Boorman placed 11th, veteran Jeff Pyrah 13th, Gary Foster 14th, Dan Anderson 22nd and Kieron Brooks 27th to give the Hastings Club a total of 95 points to the reigning champions 99 points with Phoenix on 116 points in third team spot.
The Hasting’s club’s total was the highest score ever to win the championship but it was a fitting reward as it was the Hasting club who had been the local organisers of the event including all the course marking, which they had started at 7.00.
Although not so badly affected as the men the women’s race missed several stars but Izzy Coomber led the Lewes quartet to a convincing victory in third place with Gina Wilson placing eighth, Caitlin Lloyd tenth and Megan Taylor 13th.
Brighton & Hove were again second with 53 points and Hailsham third with 59 points.
Chichester won the U17 men’s title with 13 points while Brighton & Hove took the U15 boys title and Worthing the U13 boy’s crown.
Brighton Phoenix took the U17 women’s team title and Brighton & Hove the U15 and U13 girl’s team titles with 20 and 19 points respectively.
There was plenty of interesting racing in the individual events and few surprises allowing for absentees with Jon Pepper (Phoenix) brushing aside the rest of the field after the first of the four laps had been completed to notch up his fifth victory in this event, clocking 36:08.
There was a tremendous battle for second place with newcomers to County championships Tom Evans (Lewes) and Kevin Moore (Brighton & Hove) having a neck and neck battle for the silver medal and though they both clocked 36:27 Evans took the silver medal while last year’s bronze medallist Max Dumbrell, now with Phoenix, took fourth place in 36:29.
James Baker (Chichester) who is now in his forties clocked 36:58 in fifth place.
The senior women’s race saw similar tactics from Tonbridge’s Nicole Taylor as she recorded the largest margin of victory of the afternoon with a powerful run that saw her finish 48 seconds clear of Brighton & Hove’s Emma Dixon in 22:32.
These two new seniors had led the Sussex team home into second place in last month’s Southern Inter-counties and were at the head of the field along with Brighton & Hove’s Helena Tobin and Sussex League winner Izzy Coomber (Lewes) before Taylor broke clear after the first of the three laps.
Dixon, who had been ill in the week and nearly did not compete, stayed with Taylor for a short while but then became isolated. At one time Coomber looked like overhauling the Brighton & Hove runner but she managed to hang on to the silver medal, five seconds clear of the Lewes runner while Tobin was the one that lost out on the medals in fourth place.
Dan Stidder (Phoenix) and Kennagh Marsh (Crawley) took the U20 titles in races that were held in conjunction with the senior races.
In the U17 races local boy Jess Magorrian had a good battle with Chichester’s Will Broom winning by three seconds in 16:43 to take the men’s title while Almi Nerurkar (Phoenix) put twenty seconds between herself and Brighton & Hove’s Olivia Lyon-Monk in 19:27 in the women’s race.
Leo Brewer (Phoenix) led from start to finish to take the U15 boy’s title by ten seconds from Isaac Elam (Hastings) in 14:41 while the girl’s title went to another Hastings athlete Maya Ramnarine in 13:33, well clear of Alice Wright (Phoenix)
Jack Gardner (Lewes) and Lukas Nerurkar (Phoenix) had a fine battle in the U13 event with Gardner taking the title by three seconds in 10:50 but Bethany Cook (Bodyworks) made no mistake by steaming well clear from the start in the girl’s race to win from Brighton & Hove’s Rebecca Losh in 10:52.
In the U11 races that started the afternoon’s racing Ziggy Henry (Hastings) won the boy’s race and Eleanor Strevens (Eastbourne) the girl’s race.