As the bank holiday weekend dawned bright and sunny on Saturday it was clear to all that the cross-country season was over. The heat was on: it was time for OUCCC to turn its attention to the track and show that we have our share of track athletes mixed in amongst the ‘slow-twitch monsters’ the club is famous for.
The first distance event of the weekend was the men’s 1500m heats which saw three Oxford athletes take to the track in three out of the five heats. The top four in each heat plus the next four fastest times across all heats progressed to the semis, an incredibly difficult task in a stacked field with many high pedigree athletes. First up was Miles Weatherseed who had the disadvantage of being in the first heat which tends to yield the fewest fastest losers. He set off well, leading the pack for the first 800m and setting an honest pace, however, unfortunately didn’t quite have enough over the last 400m, narrowly missing out on a qualifying spot much to his frustration. Next up was Luke Cotter, in heat 4, who after a long time out with injury moved back up to the 1500m after placing second in the 800m at cuppers. He raced well, clocking a sub-4 minute time and again narrowly missing out on a spot in the semis. Last up was Alex Gruen, in heat 5, who made his automatic qualification intentions clear from the start and tucking in in second place. He was quite the favourite of the Vinco livestream commentator who spent the majority of the race likening him to an 80s footballer due to the head band and split shorts he was wearing. Gruen finished a comfortable second in his heat, easing down over the line to take his automatic place in the semi finals.
Next up, it was turn of the women to take on the metric mile, with Charlotte Dannatt and Eleanor Bolton flying the flag for Oxford. Charlotte cruised through her heat in 4.41, looking untroubled in her first outing on the track at university. Eleanor ran strongly in third and final heat but didn’t progress in a strong field.
Eleanor Bolton in the heats of the 1500m on Saturday
In the Women’s 800 heats Oxford had only one runner, Natalie Beadle, but what we lacked in quantity we madeup for in quality with Beadle finishing 6th in her competitive heat in a time not too faroff her personal best. The Men’s 800m was up next, again with another stacked field with 10 men having run 1.50 or under. Heat 1 saw Charlie Sneddon finish 5th, clocking a comfortable sub-2 time but this sadly wasn’t enough to see him progress. It was another 5th place finish for Bonnor O’Sullivan in heat 5 which again, sadly meant he missed out on the semi finals.
It seemed strange having heats in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase as it’s only purpose was to remove 3 members of the field – luckily this didn’t include Oxford’s Kirk Smith and Miles Chandler who both ran solid races over the barriers to qualify for the final on the Monday.
Sunday saw the temperature rise further making for uncomfortable conditions for distance running, however, this didn’t stop Gruen achieving another 2nd place finish in a nail-biting semi final. He ran just outside of his PB in a race that was initially pedestrian with a massive final 800m coming in 1.57. This saw a large pack sprinting down the home straight to try and achieve one of the five automatic qualification spots on offer but luckily Gruen used his signature kick, made famous in the DMR at FEAR where he secured the win for Oxford, to secure his spot in the final the following day.
Charlotte Dannatt also had a busy Sunday. She was agonisingly close to making the final, finishing one place below what was needed for qualification, but setting a new 3-second PB, which is very encouraging so early in the season. Not satisfied with two races in two days, she raced in the 4×400, helping the Oxford team to the final and writing her name into the record books as part of the 4th fastest Oxford Women’s 4×400 in history.
Miles Chandler taking flight over the water jump in the 3000m Steeplechase final on Monday
The Men’s 5000m races commenced the action on the final day of competition. Two races were run to cope with the large number of entries and final places allocated based upon the times run by athletes in both races. Oxford had two athletes in the competitive B race, Jack Millar and the returning Miles Weatherseed. Both ran solid races over the twelve-and-a-half laps, a task made more difficult by the rising temperature. Millar finished in 4th place and Weatherseed in 14th. In the gruelling A race Jamie Parkinson, the recent Oxford 2km steeplechase record holder, took to the track finishing in 15th place.
A few hours later the dynamic Oxford 5km duo of Kim Horner and Flo Scrafton took to the track. Kim was up first running in the B race which saw an Oxbridge breakaway in the latter stages. Kim battled hard and was rewarded with an impressive 2nd place and a new PB that was comfortably beneath the Full Blue time. She also comfortably beat one of the Cambridge runners, which bodes well for the fast approaching Varsity match on 19th May at the Iffley Road Track. Flo then took to the track in a high calibre A race, which included two athletes who had recently returned from the Commonwealth Games in Australia. She battled hard in a difficult race finishing 12th in the stacked field.
In the final of the Men’s Steeplechase Smith and Chandler appeared to have recovered well after the heats on Saturday, finishing 9th and 7th respectively and running far faster than they did to qualify.
Oxford had two athletes of interest in the Women’s 2km Steeplechase. BUCS indoors 1500m silver medallist Dani Chattenton demonstrated her class with an impressive 4th place finish and comfortable Blues time, whilst Anna Sharp also rose to the occasion, smashing her PB by around 20 seconds and running her first Full Blue time, an amazing feat in such tough conditions.
The last distance event of the day with Oxford interest was the Men’s 1500m which saw Alex Gruen return to the track for the 3rd day in a row – a highly difficult and exhausting task, especially after such a competitive semi final the previous day. He finished in 10th place, an impressive achievement after so many consecutive days of high level competition in the heat and in a field boasting many international athletes. All in all, it was a successful weekend for OUCCC, but we know we’ll have to raise our game again in order to succeed in our home Varsity match in a little under two weeks.
– Charlotte Dannatt, St John’s College, and Alex Gruen, Balliol College