James is king of the Hill

Butser Hill Challenge winner James Baker Picture: Bill Shimmin
Butser Hill Challenge winner James Baker Picture: Bill Shimmin
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James Baker retained his crown as king of Butser Hill with another fantastic showing at Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

The Chichester Runner collected his seventh title over the gruelling five-mile course by seeing off the challenge of Denmead Striders’ Julian Manning – and 200 other entrants – to post a winning time of 31min 38sec.

Manning, a past winner of the Butser Hill Challenge himself, claimed the runners-up spot in 32.48, with City of Salisbury’s Stuart Hollaway third (33.07).

Meanwhile, Havant’s Polly Keen also kept her proud tradition going over a course which boasts a 765m ascent to the top, as she retained her 2012 title with victory in the women’s race (37.16).

In comparison, Baker’s latest time was over half-a-minute quicker than last year’s effort (32.14).

But with the weather and conditions underfoot a lot more runner-friendly, he made the most of his surroundings to treat spectators to another eye-catching performance.

‘James was a worthy winner with a very respectable time,’ said race director Alan Shons.

‘He and Julian had a bit of a tussle for most of the way round but the gap was quiet big in the end. James has won the event the most number of times now.

‘We’re delighted for him that he won again.’

With over 300 school children also taking part in the Junior Butser Challenge, the event continues to attract large numbers of athletes who are determined to test themselves to the limit.

Impressive performances were produced by all juniors who took part, with Samuel Paul (Liss Junior), Rowan Sexton (St Edmunds) and Terry Fawden (Highgate) claiming top spot in their age-group categories.

But despite the level of competition, Shons is determined to get more school kids involved.

And that will require changing the date of the annual event to later in September.

‘We are very pleased with how smoothly everything went this year and the number of entrants who took part,’ said Shons.

‘But with Sunday’s race clashing with the New Forest Marathon and Portsmouth Triathlon, plus the fact the schools are only just back into the autumn term, next year’s race will be held on September 28.

‘That will make it easier for teachers to submit teams and get involved.

‘We’d love to welcome more people and get more state schools involved.

‘Traditionally, we have seen more private schools take part.

‘But it would be great for schools to help push the event even more and even get kids to compete individually if they wanted to.

‘The kids really make the event and thoroughly enjoy it.’

n The Portsmouth Joggers-run Denmead 10k has been cancelled this year due to concerns with traffic problems.

The club, however, have replaced the event with the Stansted Slug – an eight-mile race that will take place in the grounds of Stansted Park on October 20.