City of Portsmouth coach Vince Stamp heaped praise on the club’s rising stars after another show of strength at the Chichester Corporate Challenge.
The Mountbatten Centre-based outfit proved the dominant force at the annual race through the West Sussex city’s streets on Wednesday night with a host of runners claiming podium places.
A record number of athletes took part in the popular event, with close to 700 – ranging from primary school children to adults – taking part.
But none will have been as proud as the City of Portsmouth contingent.
Madeline Wilton, a fourth-placed finisher at the recent Hampshire Cross County Championships, crossed the line in first place in the primary school girls’ competition in four min 55sec, with team-mate Cheyanne Jones close behind in third (4.59).
Meanwhile, Southern Cross Country Championship bronze medallist and county champion Josie Czura continued her impressive form by claiming overall victory in the combined 7-8 and 9-10 school year category (6.53) – despite being in the younger age group.
The talented 12-year-old was well supported by Elizabeth Headley (7.13), who finished third, older sister Ellie (7.21) and sisters Evie (7.18) and Maisie Grice (7.30).
Harry Moore (7.09) also earned a top-three finish as he claimed bronze in the year 7-8 boys’ race, while 16-year-old Lauren McCarthy continued her progress by coming second behind Havant AC’s Corin Reynolds in the senior women’s race.
McCarthy’s brave performance rounded off a successful night for City of Portsmouth and left club coach Stamp lauding the youngsters for their breathtaking form over the winter period.
‘The youngsters we’ve got coming through are really amazing,’ said Stamp.
‘There’s so many coming through the ranks and club chairman Phil Budd has done an excellent job with them.
‘At first he puts them in a fun athletics group and then moves them on if he thinks they’re capable of doing more specific training.
‘And he keeps saying to me “I’ve got another one coming through, I’ve got another one coming through!”
‘They’re all a pleasure to work with and every single one of them gives everything they’ve got. It’s a sheer pleasure to coach them.
‘They thrive off each other and that helps the teams and helps them win things.
‘Hopefully they’ll get even faster in the next few races, but at the same time it’s important we don’t put too much pressure on them.’
Coached by Gerry North, emerging talent Czura has been in tremendous form in recent months and inspired City’s under-13 girls to team silver at the Southern Cross County Championships at Parliament Hill last month.
Her victory on Wednesday night was no surprise – particularly as she smashed the Chichester course record last season on her way to the series crown in the primary girls’ event.
Stamp added: ‘Josie’s a right little machine – her win was the first time a year 7-8 runner had won the secondary girls’ race.
‘She and Elizabeth Headley really are coming on in leaps and bounds.
‘We mustn’t forget Harry Moore, either. He’s really moving at the minute.’
The next race in the Chichester Corporate Challenge is on March 13, while the final race is scheduled for March 27.