A Muddy Good Afternoon

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“Mud Glorious Mud” welcomed the 500 runners who reported to Bexhill Down on Saturday for the first major cross-country event of the New Year, the Sussex Cross-country championships. Mud is a great leveller in cross-county events and although we did not see any surprise winners there were some unusual minor placings. The absence of several contenders through illness was obvious in several events. Both senior winners were heavily tipped before their races but they both produced intriguing battles. In the Men’s event a trio, broke clear of the main body of the field before the first lap had been completed with local runner, Ross Skelton (Brighton Phoenix) setting the pace alongside Ultra Distance runner Tom Evans (Lewes) and footballer James Westlake (Crawley) and these three were stuck together for the first half of the race. Gaps increased as the race progressed and it was the strength of Evans that drew him clear of his rivals to wind handsomely in 40:16s with Westlake, who could certainly carve himself a top spot in athletics if he was able to race more often, clocking 40:33 in second place and Skelton, who struck a difficult patch in mid race, taking the bronze medal in 41:12s though he was being chased down by club mate Sam Wade who was timed at 41:22s in fourth place. Evans becomes the first ever Lewes club winner of the Sussex senior title. As anticipated Brighton Phoenix took the team title with 53 points to Crawley’s 80 and 134 for Lewes in third place. The women’s race saw a brave run from Bodyworks Chloe Cook who stuck like glue to the reigning champion, Nicole Taylor from Crowborough, for the first half of the race but then had to let her go. Taylor was to record a convincing win in 24:48s to Cook’s 25:31s with a fine run from Chichester’s Bethany Garland who recorded 26:11s. Lewes retained their team title with 66 points to 77 for Hastings and Brighton & Hove’s 79. Cook’s younger sister Bethany (Bodyworks), who has dominated the League events this season, notched up the largest margin of victory when she romped away with the U15 girls title clocking 14:26s to Olivia Toms (Chichester) who was timed at 15:55s and Hastings’s Maya Ramnarine 15:58s while Hastings took the team event with 21 points to Brighton & Hove 25 and Bodyworks 28. The Boys title went to Liam Dunne (Chichester) in 16:23s with Tom Roberts (Brighton & Hove), apparently enjoying the mud with his best race of the season, in 16:39s and Horsham’s Ashley Williams’s16:50s and the team race was won by Hastings with 18 points to Brighton & Hove’s 26 and Crawley’s 32. The championship racing had started with a fine win from Eastbourne’s Eleanor Stevens winning the U13 race in 13:24s to Isobel Buckler (Chichester) 13:36s and Edie Yelling (Brighton & Hove) 13:46s. The team title went to Brighton & Hove who scored 14 points to Chichester’s 20 and Lewes’s 33. The Boys U13 title went, as has all the League races so far this season, to Crawley Nicholas Hollan-Ellidge who was comfortably clear of Brighton & Hove’s Henry Yelling in 12:25s and Chichester’s Fionn O’Murcha in 12:36s. Again the team title went to Brighton & Hove with 13 points to Worthing’s 35 and Crawley’s 41. The U17 Women’s race saw Almi Nerurkar (Phoenix) glide easily into the lead early on in the race and come home comfortably clear of Hastings’s Lizzie Clarke clocking 20:27s to 20:59s with Harmony Cooper (Hastings) in third place in 21:10s while the team race went to Chichester who were the only club to field three runners. The U17 men’s race saw a comfortable victory for Georgie Pool (Hastings) in 17:44s over Tomer Tarragona (Brighton & Hove) 18:00s and Joe Smith (Crawley) who just managed snatch third place over Horsham’s Luke Burgess though both were timed at 18:04s. Brighton & Hove took the team race with 22 points to Horsham’s 24 and 33 for Brighton Phoenix. Abigail Hughes (Bodyworks) was first home in the U20 Women’s race, which was run in conjunction with senior women’s race, clocking 28:10s to Martha Coyle (Brighton & Hove) who clocked 28:17s and Nicole Edmunds (Bodyworks) 28:56s. There was a little confusion in the U20 men’s race when, other than the leading three runners, finished a lap short but Jack Leitch (Worthing) was awarded the gold medal with Dan Stidder (Phoenix) silver and Jo Body (Hastings) the bronze while Brighton Phoenix took the team title with 11 points to Lewes’s 30. Statement by the Referee of the Sussex Cross Country Championships I have thought very carefully about the issues which arose during the U20 & Senior Men’s races on Saturday. I am now satisfied that the senior runners did complete the correct race course and distance, but that the three leading athletes in the U20 race were incorrectly sent on an additional lap, at my instruction. I, therefore, take full responsibility for this unfortunate error of judgement, but stand by my decision to award the first three places in the U20 race to those three athletes as declared in the results. Before the Championship events there were races for Under 11s with Charlie Bonwick-Adams (Haywards Heath) winning the Boys race and Dulcie Yelling (Brighton & Hove) the girl’s race.