Phoenix does the double, double to retain Senior Cross Country County titles!

Tuesday 22nd January 2013

Senior Men

Going into the 2013 Sussex Cross Country Championship, Phoenix senior men had never retained the title. To do so would be to create a little bit of club history and make Phoenix only the third club in the championship's long history to retain the title. Jon Pepper was also chasing the individual double after leading the team to victory 12 months ago.

The Phoenix team on paper going into this race was loaded not just at the front end but all the way down the field. We may only have a small team but when we turn up for the same race it’s pretty special. So to say we were the favourites was clearly obvious to the other teams. However being the favourite’s means nothing if you can’t all get to the start line and back it up on the day. So with the gun cracking we were off on 7.5 miles of the legendary Stanmer Park course.

Jon wasted no time going to the front of the pack on a mission to break Adam Clark (Hastings) who was widely tipped as the favourite for the individual championship with his fine road and cross-country form coming into this race. However the Stanmer course does not take any prisoners and usually provides good hunting ground for the hard men of the running world more used to marathons than 5k’s and it was not long before Jon was out alone stamping his authority on the race.

The fight in the chasing pack was concentrated now on Adam and the Phoenix big dogs Ben Tickner and Ian Leitch all vying to be in the medals. Further down the field Josh Guilmant, Sam Wade and Darryl Hards were filling the three remaining spots in the 6-man scoring A team with only one runner from main rivals Brighton and Hove splitting the 6. The writing looked like it was already on the wall!

The B team were also fighting hard to retain their bronze medal that had been so fantastically won the previous year, but they had some tough competition as both Lewes and Worthing had brought their best possible teams to the races.

As the raced moved on to the last of the three laps Jon was still keeping the pace cranked up to maximum volume with Ben making a late charge to see if he could run him down – something he so famously did to Phil Wicks in the Southern Champs last year. Ian Leitch was making the most of some coincident training of late and stuck in a move on the last slow grass hill drag to crack Adam. However Adam was not completely gone and on the downhill home straight he unleashed his 1500m speed to try and claw Ian in. It was not enough though as Ian put himself well and truly in the hurt locker to claim Bronze. Just moments before Jon had secured an amazing double individual championship by retaining his title ahead of silver medallist Ben, who must be feeling like Sileshi Sihine (the silver man!)

Last year joint club founders Matt Paterson and Steve Ovett were informed about the successes the team had in securing a 1,2 finish and the second lowest score in the championships history. Both were incredibly happy that the club had done so well. However Steve jokingly asked why we had not managed to nab all three individuals medals. Well just for you Steve, the guys raised their game with an all-Phoenix medal lock out! Booom!

At this point there was still a team title to win and Sam who has been making waves in triathlon this summer, also stepped up his game in cross-country with a fine 8th place. Josh fired down the last hill to take 10th with Darryl coming home in 12th a big performance after having so many years out of the game. This capped off a 36 points total and with no other team in sight of such a low score. Brighton and Hove AC came in second but the question was could Team Phoenix get third spot. Tom Hopkins, as he did 12 months ago, led the B team in 23rd spot, with Dave Carter just a few places back in 26th position. What was so remarkable about Dave’s run was that he had fallen on the sharp turn coming out of the woods and latter found out he was running on a broken ankle. The Stammer course maybe tough and unforgiving but Phoenix has athletes to match it. We wish Dave a speedy recovery. New boy Kevin Gadd, like a tattooed warrior, took a great 30th and will be looking to build the fitness as he battles with the marathon once again this year. Coming in, in unison, Tobias Bremer (38), James Miles (39) and, battle scarred from another nasty fall, Bruce Warren (40) closed out the B team. The points were close but in the end the B team had to settle for 5th. Still a great result when considering the three teams ahead clearly brought their best teams to the show and then only narrowly took the spoils.

Donald MaClean (43rd) another faller and James Atkinson (45th) just missed out on a B team spot, but nonetheless took the Phoenix fighting spirit to the opposition, and this was echoed all the way down the team.

Adam Tribe (50)
Wez Mechen (60)
Nigel Herron (70)
Iain Martin (75)
Andy Neighbour (85)
Stuart Pal (86)
Jim Whitelegg (87)
Lance Bellers (89)
Ashley Guest (90)
Ray Matthews (93)
Andrew Haig (104)
Tom Farsides (105)
Brian Friend (109)
Malcolm Hughes (110)
Malcolm Kemp (121)

This capped off A, B, C, D and E teams for Phoenix, 1/4 of the entire field. That’s how to bring it to a championship race – an amazing team spirit from all involved. This also shows the strength of having a joint Running and Tri set up where we can pull our resources and show why we are the best cross-country team in Sussex. A special thanks you to Vice Captain Darryl Hardes for organising the team

Senior Women, U20 women
It was 6th place for the women this year as they continue rebuilding the team, led home by Captain Erica Martin in an impressive 12th place, with Megan Bradford backing her up in 22nd (7th U20). This was a strong run from Megan seeing that she is still learning the craft of cross-country running. Liz Durman 30th and Paule Kremer 35th came in tightly packed to close out the A team with Rachel Phelps 52nd making a welcome return to running after some time out. Liz Halliday 62nd, Hildi Mitchell 63rd, Deb Friis 67th, Lesley Fairbairn 79th and Melanie Newport 81st closed out the Phoenix line up.

U20 Men
Only one runner in this race – Will Durkin. But Will does not need team mates to be in the mix, and he was a strong silver medal winner in his first year as an U20. He will be hoping to go one better next year, but all attention will turn to the summer season where Will is due a breakthrough on the track.

U17 Men
This was a cracking race individually and from a team perspective, Robbie Fitzgibbon lead the charge for the title but found Harry Leleu (Chichester)just a little bit to good on this occasion although with his increased training regime he will soon feel the benefits come the summer season. Spencer Thomas, another athlete new to cross county and coming from a cycling background, had his best run of the season to finish 5th and secure his place for the inter-counties latter in March. Sam Kitchen, always up for a scrap, managed to split the Chichester runners with a 7th place finish to provide Phoenix with team gold by just 1 point – 14 to 15 against Chichester. Well done guys!

U15 Boys
Archie Davis, back from long-term injury, had a fine run to snatch a bronze medal in the U15’s and will be looking for other positive results come the inter-counties and schools races later in the season. Chris Mcgarry and Will Russell closed out the team but on this occasion were not in the medals.
U15 Girls
Natacha Rodrigues was the sole competitor with a creditable 13th place finish.

U13 Boys
The U13 boys did not quite have enough to challenge for the medals this year, but in this age group it is very much about learning the craft of cross-country running and enjoying the day. Well done to Jake Etherton 24th, Jake Mathieson 33rd, Francis Barker 41st, and Cameron Hardman 46th

U13 Girls
The U13’s girls had a fantastic team victory. Almi Nerukar and Naomi Fonteyn have been battling it out all season and it was close again, with Almi taking the title and only Hannah Cook (Hastings) able to split the two, with Naomi coming in for the bronze. Charlotte Mathews was a strong sixth to close out the team. The really positive thing in this age group is that there is a group of girls all training and working together, and the first scoring three were backed up by Chloe Watson 8th, Ellia Grabsky 33rd, Lola Evans 39th, Isabel WhiteLegg 40th and Louisa Sanders 41st