DARK BLUE DOMINANCE – II-IV Varsity 2019 – Shotover, Oxford

On a cold, crisp morning, multiple people woke up around Oxford ready for a day of shoeing.

The first race of the day was the women’s seconds, a competition we expected to be tight but ended up setting the dark blue tone for the day. Turtles captain, Ella Sharrock, reports:

‘Cecilie Anderson led the race from the start on a really tough course to take the win, while Gabrielle Chappell paced her race perfectly, moving up into second on the smaller second lap and fighting off 2 fast finishing tabs on the final straight. A special mention also has to go to Leonie Glasson, who only found out she was running in seconds a week before the race and, despite both this and her dislike of hills, raced excellently to come in as 6th oxford scorer (10th overall). Our women’s seconds were dominant, stacking the top 10 with 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th place finishes to thrash the tabs and set the ball rolling for an epic day of tab-shoeing.’

Next up was the Men’s seconds, Aidan Smith, tortoises captain gave us some detailed insight into the race and the team mentality:

“Slow and steady wins the race.” Milan Campion, Tortoise 2019

“There goes Milan, doing exactly what everyone told him not to.” Sam Brown Araujo, Blues 2019

‘In the tightest race of the day, the men’s Tortoises edged the Cambridge Spartans 39-41, with Oxford beating Cambridge man-for-man through the first five scorers, but left with a nervous wait as Cambridge closed their team before Oxford’s last scorer

The race went off at a calm pace, with Tortoise captain Aidan Smith leading out the flat first mile, the whole race tightly packed in behind. As the race completed the out and back, from the supporters’ cheers it became clear that Cambridge had made the immense blunder of selecting a team also containing a Jamie, Aidan and Tom. On home terrain, under those beloved Shoe-tover treetops- our own personal ‘Gabbatoir’- the Tortoises lapped up the extra cheers as the Cambridge supporters unwittingly fired them up further at every corner. A devastated anonymous source confirmed Cambridge will be undertaking a full review of selection strategy before St Neots next year (for unorthodox selection advice, Tim Harrison is available to consult at very reasonable rates- Shotover tripwire, pedal grease and a bubblewrapped Miles Weatherseed sold separately).

As the course narrowed past the bike jumps, the Tortoise presence at the front was strong, and Tom Wood saw this as his moment, surging past on the downhill to the steps and immediately almost doing a Paulin. Up the steps Jacques Maurice and Milan Campion hit the front, and looking around Milan saw 5 Tortoises, and, confident he had done as much ‘slow and steady’ as anyone could possibly ask for, pushed on, splitting the group. A furious Jamie ‘Sit and Kick’ Parkinson just about made it across to the front pack, visibly quivering with rage that our supposed new track fairies had no idea that the only sensible way to race is kick at 5 miles, with Noah’s least favourite OUCCC Runs Chat member Jamie Edgerton (Tab) also making the selection.

Up the final hill of the first lap, the chasing pack split, with Renshaw breaking away, pursued by Jose Gray of Cambridge, leaving the remnants Aidan Smith, Aidan Rigby, and Lawrence Hollom to chase along the Plain. In the lead group, Jacques fell off first as quad cramp saw him drop back through the chasing pack as the second lap started, with Milan falling off the Jamies soon after.

At the front, experience prevailed, and in the words of Jamie Edgerton,  “[Jamie] knew exactly what he was doing and left me for dead halfway through the second lap”. Clear by Cowley Club corner, he could ride the rollercoaster solo and cruise home in 1st. Behind him, Renshaw had to share his rollercoaster car with Jose and a struggling Milan, but after enjoying being back in the company of a fresher after the longest break this term, eventually discovered that not slowing down when running up hills appears to be a superior strategy to slowing down when running up hills, and opened up a decisive gap on Jose on the steep climb up Weatherseed Walk, closing hard on Jamie (but not Jamie) on the finishing straight for 3rdand a reserves spot.

Behind, Aidan surged through the flat midsection of the last lap to break away from his two Tabs, and started to close on Milan through the rollercoaster. With Milan in sight ahead and behind Rigby working hard to regain contact up the final hill, Aidan hit the car park in 6th. As the pace ramped up along the Plain both Aidans passed Milan, with Aidan Smith almost catching Jose Gray in the final few meters to finish 5th.  Behind, Milan had been working through his Tortoise Workbook and decided maybe mindfulness could prevail upon him to endure another 400m of ‘slow and steady’, a commendable example of self-control which unfortunately coincided with the final 400m of the race. However, he just held off a charging Lawrence Hollom for 7th. Matt D’Aquila, a man famous for his love of the midnight rain (and milk) on his bare skin, and his ability to make Paulin (even on crutches) appear competent downhill, finished just behind for a very impressive 9thon a tough course, showing he is definitely no stereotypical American flat track bully (in any case, he is Italian, which explains his ability to take any quantity of wine into his stomach with ease, albeit temporarily).

Further back, fortunes were more mixed. Once it became clear his quad was going to see him at best hop the last mile to the finish, Jacques, in a last minute attempt to convince Tim he really had been Blues material all along, took the hard decision to drop out. After his very brief trip to the front of the race at the steps, Tom Wood found himself off the back in the second lap, but managed to avoid relaxing to his usual standards of punctuality just enough to pip the Snails’ Earth Science Tom on time, finishing 14th. Dan ‘Ted’ Bundred had a disrupted build up, but successful application of a time honoured stressie symptom treatment technique (repeating `it’s just tendinitis’ whilst sobbing over a photo of last year’s winning mob team) saw him beat his own pre-race prediction by one place (thanks, Jacques!) and round out the finishers.

Post finish, the atmosphere was tense, with nerves equally high from the closeness of the race and the fact that Paulin was involved in calculating the scores. Fortunately, after breaking Tortoise hearts 2 years ago and arousing suspicion that he might have been a Tab sleeper agent (Miles Weatherseed’s 10th best Varsity moment), this year he showed he does in fact know how to count to 8. Oxford 39, Cambridge 41.  Oxford win.

39-41. Dan Bundred actually finishes a Varsity match. Aidan continues his transformation from former Blues runner into specialist captain a la Eoin Morgan. Jacques spends Saturday night kneeling on the High Street, staring longingly at a blue visor through the window of Sweaty Betty. Milan realises that if he’d only gone out twice as hard, he’d have had a bigger time cushion when he died. Tequila starts writing his DPhil application a year early. Tom Wood finally discovers a way to avoid Renshaw’s company for half an hour.

The Jamie Parkinson legend comes full circle. New legends begin. The Tortoises rumble on to a 5 year winning streak.

Almost worth paying £310 to fly over from Zurich and kill two polar bears for. #WATAW’

Following this nail-biting race was the Men’s 3rds who approached their race in high spirits, and full of energy thanks to the delicious home cooking of resident sports-academic Alex Betts. Captain, Joseph Grehan-Bradley, reports.

‘Most responsible for the teams enthusiasm, perhaps, was the fact that each team member strongly believed that they had a good chance of winning Saturday’s race. The Cowley Club pre-race prediction board testified to how remarkably evenly balanced each individual’s prospects were. Only dark horse Alex Jackson was not touted to cross the line first before proceedings began.                              

The dominance of dark blue became evident from the races very early stages. Strong packing from the off, led by Zac Hudd, allowed Oxford to get a stranglehold on the race before we had even hit the trees. As we hoped, Cambridge’s runners suffered up and down the hills. Consequently, the breakaway group of Jackson, Ben Passey and Joseph Grehan-Bradley had established a healthy lead by the beginning of the second lap. Quite fittingly, it was the under-estimated Jackson who transformed that lead into a decisive victory, winning the race for Oxford a full 21 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. Fast finishes from Joel Dungworth and Tom Barrett ensured that 4 of the top 5 were wearing Oxford colours. Tactical manoeuvrings from Hudd and Toby Ralph further down the order prevented Cambridge’s runners from really threatening Oxford’s dominance of the team standings. In the end, our final scorer came through in 10th to set up a convincing team win. A satisfying result, and testament to the hard work all the 3rds put into training over this term.’

Could Oxford have got off to a better start before the mob match races began? 3-0? I think not. It was now the turn of the female mobbers to take to the mud and try to emulate the success of their teammates before them, as Women’s mob captain, Amy, recounts:

‘The 2019 Womens’ Mob match was the 3rd biggest race in the history of the event, with 26 runners from Oxford and 18 from Cambridge. After the first lap, the field was headed by Helena Page alongside 3 other Oxford athletes and 2 tabs. After a conservative first lap, triathlete Kinga Zielinska moved through to win the race in a time that would have placed her mid-pack in the 2nds race. A particularly impressive run given her bike session in the morning and cycle to Shotover… Rebecca Walker had a very strong finish, moving up 3 places in the final few hundred metres, helping Oxford to claim 7 of the top 10 places. The race was successful for Oxford, bringing the 4th victory of the day and was enjoyed by all, even those making their cross country debut!’

Could we get the clean sweep? Spoiler alert – YES! Will Shardlow, our men’s mob captain, summarises the final bit of shoeing (sorry Cambridge):

‘The fear in the eyes of the opposition choppers was evident from the off as they were dwarfed on the line by Oxford’s largest ever mob turnout, the tribal cries of ‘mob mob mob mob mob mob mob’ still ringing in their ears… Oxford dominated from the start, a sea of dark blue washed straight to the front and remained there, stubbornly impenetrable throughout. Confidence was high – a certain runner having enough breath to spare as to start a mid-race chant! Here and there a light blue vest made a plucky attempt to separate the pack at the front – but was to be all in vain. The athletics boys ended up dominating the podium – with Charlie Sneddon coming out on top and Max Buckley in 3rd. Joe Edwards came through in 2nd, a very impressive performance considering his training consists of the odd club run and a trip to spoons (think he’s worried about getting too fast and leaving his chopper mates behind…) The top 8 finishers were all from Oxford, making for another excellent victory to top off a very enjoyable and successful Varsity match.’

So all in all, a very successful day for the dark blues and one we hope to emulate next week at Wimbledon Common for the blues matches. I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to Will and Amy (our mob match captains) for all the time and effort they put into organising such a brilliant day and to all our athletes who volunteered – setting up and taking down the course, marshalling and time keeping. Also, huge thanks to our amazing coach, Kyle, for his continuous support and without whom we would not have achieved such a dominant victory. Alex Betts also deserves a special coaching shout out for stepping up to take the Wednesday lunch time sessions and providing so much support and guidance to all athletes.

Days like Saturday really show what OUCCC is about and what it means to be a dark blue – the incredible team spirit and encouragement of everyone is something to be really proud of and is why we achieved what we did. Congratulations to EVERYONE who raced!

OUCCC at the Oxford University Open Day – TASTER SESSION

At the Oxford University Open Day on Wednesday 3rd July OUCCC will be training at the Iffley Road track with the warm-up starting at 1pm for a 1:30pm session start. If you are in Oxford for the Open Day and would like to come and join in for all or part of the session, or even just come and watch, we’d love to see you!

We will be hanging around after the session for refreshments and to answer any questions anyone may have about the club, training and competing for OUCCC/OUAC. Our club coach, Kyle Bennett, will also be in attendance so you can chat to him too.

We look forward to meeting and hopefully convincing you that Oxford is the best place for you, both athletically and academically.

BUCS Cross Country 2019 Report

**WEATHER UPDATE**

“After speaking to BUCS yesterday they confirmed that the event is still going ahead” – the update from the BUCS XC Facebook group was like music to the ears, allowing the all-encompassing pre-BUCS excitement to keep escalating. Tilly misses her first ever lecture in three years to join a group of eager Friday-day BUCS travellers, the majority of which, we soon realised were members of South West origin. Said members analysed the best service stations in the West Country, while Jamie P (cheers drive) made headway towards an increasingly snow-less Exeter, trying to catch up coach Kyle (from here on ‘KB’) with an upbeat playlist strumming along in the background. The rest of the squad left the following morning at a spritely time of 5:50am, and in the blink of an eye, traded a snowy Oxford for a sunny race venue at Bicton College, Exeter.

BUCS LEAD-UP; SETTING THE SCENE (some background reading to add a bit of context to the 2019 edition of BUCS XC, skip to next section “THE RACE” for immediate race deets, or read on, do read on)

“We created our own lane so they can see our drive” (*drive for BUCS medals) – KB; a moto fit enough for us to realise how we’re part of something special: Oxford Distance Project. A club which is going from strength to strength: smashing gender parity for university sports teams and making Oxford Sports Fed’s mouths drop with the number of entries required to be manually entered for the 2019 BUCS XC campaign.

A record of 70 entries, 37 men and 33 women, reduced to 27 and 22 only through illness or injuries. The latter was not however, about to stop the following mighty squad of Dark Blue supporters (Figure 1): Lucy.W, Belinda, Evie, Hoogsta, Lucy.F, Hannah, PG, Liam, Christian Smith and Eoghan from coming, meaning OUCCC was out in force, a now restored 60-strong contingent with KB + special guests (family, friends, alumni and Holly Hammett).

Figure 1: Dark Blues, those who ran and those who sang

Hilary term at Oxford officially commenced with a session at South Parks on the 12th January, an ideal training venue for the forthcoming ‘biggest race since Varsity’… The countdown was in full swing, and before we read on and re-live how our club took on this year’s BUCS XC Championship let’s have a throwback to Saturday 3rd February 2018 to when the countdown really started. Re-cap: Men’s A team finished 4th on paper but ended up on the podium with deserved bronze medals round their necks after Loughborough’s administrative disaster, then our Women finished 5th, their highest team position to date, while the Men’s B team produced a stunning performance to climb the podium for Oxford’s second bronze medal of the day (this time outright). How the media remembered this:

Cambridge and Oxford have benefited when Birmingham and Loughborough have faltered… Oxbridge universities will be ready to pounce should the third of the big three fall next time out” – FastRunning Magazine’s BUCS Cross 2019 Preview.

Little did FastRunning know that other universities outside the heavily sports-funded ‘big three’ universities also had Ctrl-F + “BUCS…” returning big hits on weekly emails and social media pages (shout-out to ODP and intergender Facebook Messenger groups: you’ve revolutionised the meaning of Facebook). Even vocal reminders of #howManyDaysTillBUCS could be heard serenading the start of the first rep at club sessions.

KB prepared the squad by crafting BUCS-esque #HillyLoop circuits round South Parks, by getting us to practise the fast (MASS) BUCS start, a true art, and by ensuring we all got our individually-appropriate pre-race tapers in. Our race prep was strengthened by run-outs at the Chiltern League and through some especially impressive performances at the regional champs the weekends before. This served to boost team morale and confidence where ‘to dream of where the medals live’ was something now carrying abundant factual evidence.

THE RACE

This year’s BUCS course embodied the ‘best of British cross country’: pitched over four fields with a mix of shallow and steep inclines, where tight turns and narrowly taped sections tested our agility, where patches of tufty terrain and muddy-to-get-moshy patches tested our balance, and importantly also, our abilities to wisely seek out our #ownLanes.

The best bit of the course (Figure 2) was the route to the finish line, which was, by both physical and emotional definition an endurance-themed rollercoaster. Imagine a downhill 100m segment towards a water feature (Bicton College’s LAKE) with ‘optional’ crossing potential (Clairo; let us never forget; Figure X, end of report), then, suddenly, a 90 degrees right turn bestows unto you a sharp 80m hill sprint where roaring spectators create an echoing channel to keep you moving upwards, just like the infamous L’Angliru climb in Asturias, a breath-taking final stage to the annual Spanish cycling tour La Vuelta (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFHznUIur88).

Figure 2: Sonya’s Hill’s key features

The appropriately named “Sonya’s Hill” (Sonya Ellis, Exeter Uni’s Head Athletics Coach and BUCS course director) was a multifaceted beast; the hill’s peak (Figure 3) was U-shaped meaning before you had time to take a level stride you were hurtling down an even steeper descent and scrabbling up a zigzag camber to the finish line, with legs swimming in lactic acid and a Heart Rate of (220 – – age) bpm.

What this meant to spectators:

The course lent itself to premium spectator coverage which meant OUCCC TV was as on-point and live as ever, raking in the views back home: “Allez les Blues”- Speed, 3:19. Thank you Woodsy and Charly D for livestreaming to the world how OUCCC took on the three BUCS races. I’ll never forget the genius cheers from that legendary Northern accent: “Come on Eleanor you’ve got this….there’s a tab right behind her! Come on Charly D give her the shoe!” and “come on Millar, come on Lickey Lickey…you’ve gotta keep going mateee” and my personal fave “come on Flo you want this…IT’S BUCS”. Here’s a second moment to shout out to all the OUCCC members who came to support despite being side-lined through injury. You guys contributed to the BUCS experience and your cheers will forever be present in our individual and team finishing positions, next year you’ll hopefully get to see this yourselves.

Figure 3: Top of Sonia’s hill, view of the lake

What this meant for Oxford’s medals chances

OUCCC Women’s race: Packing and Progress in Da Club

Oxford Women became the 4th best British University XC team for the 2019 season, finishing behind the ‘big three’ aforementioned sporting Unis with 50 points (counted by first three scoring positions). This bettered their 5th place with 78 points from last year. Individually, Eleanor Bolton continued the obliteration of her winter season (4th at Varsity, 1st at Northern’s) by leading the team home in 10th place, the highest individual finishing position to date?! Charlotte Dannatt (2nd at Varsity, 5th at Southern’s) also had an incredible run finishing 14th in what has got to be the most competitive BUCS field ever. Important to note is how Eleanor and Charlotte ran side by side for most of the race, recreating the productive #packing seen in recent training sessions. Flo Scrafton completed the scoring team in 26th, sandwiched by Tabs (who likes bread anyway?) in her 4th BUCS appearance. Anna Sharp finished 32nd in one of the most impressive results of the day (throwback to previous years shows off her progress: 243rd in first year, 89th in second year). Cecilie finished a superb 78th, Natalie 94th and Tilly 171st – all three securing BUCS XC PBs while Club Captain Helene (ref: Storm Helene; Figure 4) also dipped into the top 100 for the second time, but in a race with 642 starters this was cracking stuff. A final mention goes to recent alumni and now GB international Dani Chattenton who finished 7th place, an awesome achievement, where her progress through the years (30th last year, 92nd at her first BUCS) highlights the classiness of this ex-Dark Blue athlete.

Figure 4: Club Captain Helene with Vice-Captain/BUCS coordinator/hype woman Flo Scrafton

OUCCC Men’s A race: Oxbridge Domination and Return of the Tofi

Is that, wait no, surely not, again? Oxbridge 2nd and 3rd podium positions? One hates to say it, but the order went: Cambridge in 2nd with 52 points (first four scorers) then Oxford in 3rd with 53 points (Figure 5). However, with Loughborough placed in 4th with 61 points and Birmingham in…please visit the link below for this information as it was beyond the scope of this report, the faith must surely be restored for an accurate prediction and fair credit distribution in next year’s BUCS Cross Preview.

(http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16421&RId=2241&EId=1)

Christofi returns to BUCS to lead Oxford men home in 4th, the highest individual club finish in recent times while Jack Millar secured the club another excellent top 10 finish in 8th position. Jamie Parkinson ran strong for 15th and Tim Harrison completed the scoring tally in 26th, managing to hold on after showing unmatchable dedication to the “BUCS fast start”. Luke Cotter and Oliver Paulin both finished close behind in 36th and 37th positions where again the sights of #packing and teamwork were so inspirationally present throughout. Big congrats to all six guys for bagging the club some more silverware!

Figure 6: Men’s A BUCS XC Bronze medallists (top). Photo of Tofi featured in AW (bottom)

Men’s B Race: Noah Hurton’s Army

Noah had been demonstrating increasingly meaner form over the last few months (debuted for the Blues at Varsity) and in incredibly cool fashion, over a course fit for a Cumbrian, never ever looked back until crossing the line in 2nd (just to see th satisfying gap created), Figure 7. Oxford men’s B team finished 8th overall with 125 points (four to score). The team comprised 21 members with eight finishing in the top 100. Robbie Brown was the next Oxford scorer in a very promising 29th, followed by American visiting student Kenneth Marshall in 38th and Joe Morrow in 56th. Another notable individual performance was Joseph Dugdale finishing 4th! Figure 8.

Figure 7: Individual silver for Noah Hurton Men’s B race podium

Figure 8: Joseph Dugdale back on the scene

POST-RACE ANTICS

Emotive Smokehouse and Spoons

After the medal’s ceremony presented by British distance legend Jo Pavey and the last round of team chants about Oxbridge lacking social skills and how Loughborough can’t do admin, OUCCC broke away for some down time before the big night ahead. OUCCC’s Best ever Social Sec Tim Harrison lived up to his own high standards by taking us to dine at Zita’s Smokehouse. The setting was perfect, smokey satisfying flavours and thick cut chips with pitchers of beverage proved hugely moving for OUCCC’s Woodsy. Next stop, Spoons. Imagine a Spoons Empire, this was their HQ and we and several other Unis including The Tabs were weary, beer-goggled and parched travellers who stumble across an extraordinary discovery. Like a reduced version of the ‘wow’ people feel when they trek up the Peruvian Andes and spot the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. All this Spoons tucked just a stone’s throw away from OUCCC’s very welcoming and excellent weekend residence, The Great Western.

BUCS XC Afterparty

“The events that unfolded over the following hours (until 5am for some) are of course far too extensive to detail in their entirety here” – BUCS Cross Report 2017… but highlights this year were: the extra hill reps put in just to get there; the first impressions of the venue being another lit Student Union, and the new or re-establishment of relationships between our present and former Club Captains with some of Cambridge’s finest athletes. However, the initially perceived ‘beautifully busy scenes’ were conducive to shoulder joints being displaced, teams getting stuck in the sludge or fed to the moshpit or sliding around the edges of the dancefloor in spilt sins. The playlists in the two dance rooms were not really up to OUCCC (potentially too high?) standards but given the class A company of the squad it was impossible to not enjoy it, and for some, the pure joy of cracking open a cold one with (or all over) the boys got seriously lit.

MORNING AFTER

The following morning a small group of better-for-wear athletes made it out for an inspiring long Sunday run, while the rest of us slept in or made the most of the hearty elaborate food for a 3-hour breakfast session. Without pre-warning the coach driver turned up 30 mins early (or 1.5 hours early for some who weren’t aware – apologies) and kicked up a grumble in his smoking hot coach. We arrived back to Oxford in great spirits, with blurry eyed and DOMS from a 24 hour stint to be very proud of.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to Great Western Hotel for hosting us, to the committee for organising, to to Kyle for making the trip up to support us at another memorable weekend for the OUCCC. Lastly, thanks to all you Dark Blues who participated in any aspect of the big BUCS weekend… BUCS XC 2020 anyone?

Figure X: Clairo’s BUCS XC course recce heroics

-Floren Scrafton, Worcester College, OUCCC Women’s Vice-Captain