The Sussex Cross Country League began at Goodwood on Saturday and attracted a host of talented young athletes from around the county.
Whilst devoted parents shivered in the crisp October wind, their children revelled in the competition of a new season.
First off the gun were the under 13 girls. Leader, Grace Cook, 12, from Bodyworks has been keeping herself fit over summer training for triathlon. Coming back to cross country running, she said: “it was such a shock and harder than I remember.” She now has her sights set upon the Birmingham inter-county championships.
Following her was Martha Coyle, 13, from Carden Newman School who runs for Brighton and Hove. She said “I just want to do the best of my ability. Grace is really good, I’m not aiming to beat her but I’d like to try and close the gap a little bit.”
The boys were next off the mark, and Brighton and Hove dominated the podium. First, Stephen Ferroni, 12, and second Samura Kamara, also 12, were both sporting the club colours. Samura, who has only been training for five months said: “it was alright, it wasn’t super-mega-hard and there was no one next to me.”
Stephen kept in first position the whole way round, and said: “It wasn’t hard, or easy, it was somewhere in between.”
Grace Baker from Hastings Athletics club took the prize for Under 15 girls, despite saying she had been suffering with a cold all week. She was looking forward to the season ahead and pleased to be back out in the woods.
The under 15 boys were the only racers to be rained upon, with a sudden storm inhibiting them. They were led by Nick Rawbin, a triathlete from Bodyworks in his second year of cross country racing. This was his first win, a good omen he took to heart, saying: “it should be a good year.”
In second and third were Ben Collier, of Horsham Blue Star Harriers, 14, and Billy White, 13, of Phoenix. Both said the rain lost them some time, but were pleased with their places. Ben called the result: “a good start to the season.”
The under 17 girls race was won by Abigail Ashbee-Simmonds from Crawley AC powered through a hilly 5km alongside the senior and veteran women, followed by Josephine- Joy Sunderland and Lauren Bourne, both from Worthing and District Harriers.
Charlie Grice took the first prize in the under 17. He had a two week break before returning to training a month ago, and said it was his first race back so he “wasn’t expecting much.” He was followed by Ludo Goodliffe from Lewes AC and Ryan Driscoll from Tunbridge.
The first race of the league marked the beginning of the cross country season for a number of the athletes competing. Races will take place monthly in Plumpton, 27 November, Bexhill, 15th January, and Lancing 12 Febuary with familiar faces likely to be appearing across the league.
Sussex celebrated its cross country talent on Saturday as the regional Brooks Cross Country League began at Goodwood in Chichester.
Ben Warren from Hailsham took the first male prize despite an unexpected stumble on the finishing straight. He righted himself immediately and went on to a strong finish.
The race was a battle between Warren and Adam Clarke, Hastings AC. Warren said the youngster was like a “man possessed” after he led the race at the start.
Warren said he had recently taken up triathlon to keep his interest in sport fresh, and felt that the training helped him despite cutting down on his running miles to squeeze in his biking and swimming.
Clarke said: “My training has been solid and is going well. I haven’t tapered at all, but so far I’m going strong.
Holly Wheeler of Hastings AC took first female position. She re-joined the running world in 2008 after completing a degree which she did part-time alongside her work.
Wheeler said her running had been “on and off” and her father explained that she had maintained her fitness through travelling and being active in her life.
Gloriously down to earth she said: “It was painful but enjoyable. Some runs are just painful, but I enjoyed that.” She called the sharp downhill in the course an ‘ankle breaker.’
Behind her were Amelia Jobling, a pentathelete also from Hastings AC, and Fiona Powell from Brighton and Hove.
Brighton and Hove produced the best veterans with Sarah Coope taking first female and David Benton, a former elite GB duathlete from Brighton and Hove coming eighth overall and first male veteran. He’s been keeping his legs strong competing in duathlons and a few triathlons over summer, and enjoyed the climbs of the course though he said it was “a bit twisty” at parts.
Supporters and runners a like filled Goodwood field this weekend, and it was a promising start for the cross country season.