Baker makes a winning return to Portsmouth Joggers’ Summer XC

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James Baker made a winning return to the Portsmouth Joggers’ Summer XC.

The Chichester athlete was a late addition to the field for the popular evening cross-country race at Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

But he wasted no time in making his presence felt on the undulating course as he stormed to an excellent victory with a time of 28min 09sec.

It was an impressive feat from the serial race winner, who also cycled to and from the race, from Chichester.

Julian Manning finished second (29.03) and he led Denmead Striders to the men’s team prize.

Race director Kiernan Easton, chairman of Portsmouth Joggers, was pleased to see the high-quality field put on an entertaining race over the five-mile course.

He revealed Baker’s late entry could have taken his rivals, particularly Manning, a little bit by surprise.

Easton said: ‘James messaged me over the weekend on Twitter. He asked if we still had any spaces and asked if he could enter.

‘He cycled up from Chichester, ran, and then cycled back to Chichester.

‘So he had a 20-mile cycle, a 28-minute five-mile run, then a cycle back. That’s a really good effort.

‘James said that 10 years ago he did it in 26 minutes and he wanted to see how he compared to then.

‘So maybe it was the cycle that added a bit of time on.

‘It’s the first time in eight years he has done the summer cross country.

‘We take it as a good endorsement of the event.

‘Julian Manning came second with a good run.

‘Before the start I don’t think he was aware James had entered, so it was a nice surprise for him when they lined up.

‘They have a good rivalry and I think they will keep pushing each other.’

Denmead Striders were in dominant form as they also took the ladies’ team prize and their second men’s team came very close to making it a one-two.

City of Portsmouth teenager Matt Smith secured a brilliant third place (29.52).

Because he took the prize for third overall and he also qualified for the under-20 category, that winning prize was awarded to the second under-20 Joel Williams (35.20).

Joel also claimed family bragging rights as well, beating his dad Dave (35.52) on the day.

Pete Collins was the first Portsmouth Jogger to cross the line, with a time of 30.10 in fifth place.

He was just edged in a sprint finish for fourth by John Sullivan, from Denmead Striders (30.09).

Chichester’s Fay Cripps was the first female (33.02).

A total of 182 finishers ensured it was a great event and the weather was good.

Easton was delighted with the success of the event and paid tribute to all those who helped out.

He said: ‘I’m immensely pleased with how it went.

‘We couldn’t do it without all the volunteers, supporters and marshals.

‘It was fantastic. We had burgers and a barbecue thanks to RKdia in Horndean.

‘It was a really good turnout. We had all ends of the spectrum.’

Entries are still open for the Portsmouth Joggers’ Stansted Slog half & relay marathon on Sunday, July 20.

See the website pjc.org.uk/ to sign up.