#0daysuntilvarsity: II-IVs 2017

The first of the two Varsity Cross-Country weekends had come upon us. The culmination of seven weeks of sessions around Exeter-Hertford and up and down South Park was finally here. You could feel the anticipation amongst the runners as we made our way up the Old Road to Shotover Country Park, fortunately in minibuses this time, and not running as per the Sunday long run norm. Any fears that the Tabs may get lost en route to the race venue were put to rest when we were briefly held up behind their coach struggling to make it up the steep incline to the starting area (which I guess was to be expected of a vehicle hailing from the Fens). And no sooner had both teams set up their base camps than the captains had set off to lead their runners on a final course inspection. The somewhat confusing Shotover course had been meticulously marked out by Mob Match Captains extraordinaire Libby and Woodsy, meaning odds on losing any runners this year were rather high. And in case you had been fooled into believing that this was some Olympic-esque running event, the outcome of which was the be-all and end-all of your athletic career (editor’s side note: it is), the #WACAW tattooed on the path in flour reminded us that after all, we’re all choppers aren’t we?

At 12:30 the 35th Ladies’ Seconds race got underway. The 5.6km route followed a two-lap course, that whilst only undulating by northern-standards, was positively mountainous to most southerners. And indeed, the hills of Shotover proved too much for the Tabs as the Oxford Turtles claimed a convincing thirteen point victory over the Cambridge Cheetahs, the first Turtles’ victory in five years. Fresher Eleanor Bolton put in an extremely impressive performance to take the individual title in a time of 24min3sec. Anna Sharp and Natalie Beadle both had very strong runs to finish 3rd and 4th respectively. Women’s Captain Rachel Skokowski brought the win home in 7th place as she was followed up by the rest of the Oxford pack taking positions 8 through 10, all beating the final Cambridge scorers.

Barely had the Turtles’ post-race celebrations begun and it was time to turn our attention to the next race of the day, the 74th Gentlemen’s Seconds Match. The race that ensued over the 8.2km out-and-back and two lap course played out as a very tightly fought battle. Alex Bampton finished as the first Oxford runner home in second place in 29min57sec, and unbeknownst to him at the time, in doing so booked his place in the Oxford team for the Blues Match a week later, on Wimbledon Common. Had it not been for Oxford’s Varsity 1500m champion Alex Gruen’s final surge along the Plain, where he overtook a pack of Tabs to come 3rd overall, who knows what the overall outcome of the race would have been? Modern Pentathlete turned full-time cross-country runner Tommy Lees led in another Oxford group in 6th place, with Club Captain Luke Cotter coming 7th, just ahead of last year’s Club Captain and the 2016 Seconds Match winner Miles Chandler. Luke’s performance was all the more incredible when you consider his mileage for the whole term hasn’t really exceeded today’s race distance, now that’s true dedication to the club. Liam Smith closed the Oxford scoring team in 11th. From a spectator’s point of view the match result looked too close to call, and coming across a very dejected LC sitting in the mud, you’d have had good reason to believe that the Cambridge Spartans had taken the title. But it soon became clear that a couple of miscalculations had been made: all part of the scoring team’s plan to keep everyone on their toes of course, this is Oxford after all. To everyone’s great excitement (well almost everyone) it was in fact the Oxford Tortoises who were the match champions, for a second year running, with a five-point victory over their Cambridge counterparts.

The 67th Gentlemen’s Thirds race was run on the same race route as the Seconds Match, starting only five minutes later. Although this match ultimately did not go the Oxford Snails’ way, there were still some solid performances from the Oxford men, notably from Joseph Grehan-Bradley, who finished second overall. Adam Waldron, Tim Harrison, Tom Lamont and Joe Bowness all stuck together as an Oxford pack taking positions 6 through 9.

Next up were the two Mob Matches, with the 31st Ladies’ Thirds Mob Match first. There is nothing quite like the Mob Matches in any other Oxbridge Varsity match, in that anyone who wants to can run for their team. To be able to say that you represented your university and gave it everything to show that your blue is the right blue in one of the oldest and most famous inter-university rivalries in history is something pretty special and unique to cross-country. You’ll have to excuse my cheesiness here but it’s truly heartfelt, whilst not the oldest of the Varsity Cross-Country races, the Mob Matches represent in many ways the true essence of what sport is about and they are some of the most eagerly anticipated races of the OUCCC year. Moreover, taking place on the Saturday of 7th week, the fact that a huge 41 women took part in the race undoubtedly marks it out as the perfect end to a very successful Oxbridge “This Girl Can” Week. In the elite world of sport where funding is often dictated by medal counts, we can sometimes be led to believe that winning is all that matters (and don’t get me wrong here, this is definitely the case with Varsity because there’s no second place, you either win or you lose), but in the Mob Matches it’s almost always the case that the team with the highest number of runners wins. Participation is the key to success in these events and Libby and Woodsy are due massive congratulations for their tireless work recruiting their epic Oxford Mob Match squads. And so, it should come as no surprise to you that with our 25-strong team, the Oxford Women won the Mob Match with a significant 252 to 418 point victory over Cambridge. Dani Edmunds took the individual crown, with Rachel Parlour running in for second place. The depth we have here on the Oxford Women’s side this year, that has perhaps been slightly lacking in previous years, was evident in the results in that out of the top six finishers, five were OUCCC, with Esther Pigney, Lucy Farquhar and Claire Hammett finishing in places 4 to 6.

The final race of the day was the 60th Gentlemen’s Fourths Mob Match. Continuing with the general theme of the day, the individual title went to an Oxford runner, Cameron Taylor. After searching high and low on Power of 10 to for his winning time, I’m afraid to say that it would appear Olly Paulin had forgotten about his stop watch duties at this late stage of the day. Or maybe he was too busy celebrating all the OUCCC victories, who knows? Anyway, Tom Fabes ran himself into third place and positions 5 through 8 were again occupied by a tight Oxford pack consisting of Andreas Halner, Colum O’Leary, Robbie Brown and Ed Stace. A closer match than in the Women’s Mob, Oxford nonetheless still emerged as victors of the Men’s Mob with a score of 828 points to 973.

The races today resulted in a 4-1 overall match victory for Oxford, and hence the whole event was nothing short of an incredible triumph for OUCCC. Moreover, regardless of the outcome of the following week’s Blues Races, we all knew that the overall Varsity Cross-Country trophy would be back with us once more. With many a reason to celebrate, the festivities continued well into the night with the Seconds to Fourths After Party. But sadly, as heart-breaking as it is, all good things must come to an end and with that it’s time for everyone to reset their countdowns to the best weekend of the year. Huge thanks must go to the Oxford Captains Luke and Rachel, as well as to Woodsy and Libby, for all their hard work in ensuring that the Seconds to Fourths Varsity matches were as successful as they were. And last but not least, whilst it’s very much a love hate relationship between us and the Tabs, thank you to them for putting up a great fight in all of the races, see you at BUCS next year.

Oh and in case you were wondering it’s #360daystillvarsity.

– Helene Greenwood, University College

Cuppers 2016 Report

7:45am, Sunday 23 October 2016 and South Park was bang on with the pathetic fallacy. As the mist hung low in the trees and the moon showed its pale face from behind the clouds, it was almost as if the park itself was anticipating the drama that would later unfold on its unforgiving slopes. With every stake, flag, and sprinkling of flour the excitement was building, and as the dreaming spires were gradually revealed by the lifting fog, so was a course that would later sort the Greeks from the bin men, the chemists from the orienteers, the middle distance athletes from the marathon runners and the drop bears from the choppers.

Owing to the introduction of the Howard Online Registration System, sign ups were already looking strong before anyone had even turned up. Nevertheless it was still a relief when the competitors one by one began to appear in real life and set out on their warm-ups and other such pre-race rituals.

First up were the women, with defending champion Bethanie Murray lining up fresh from her cross-country debut in Ireland the previous weekend. Despite her international roots, Beth was feeling particularly at home on this Oxford course, so much so that she got a bit too close for comfort with the turf on her way to the start line, no thanks to a minor incident with a rabbit hole. With marshals in position and course details explained, the dulcet tones of Grumpy Howie set the girls on their way and it was Beth who immediately took charge at the front, closely followed by Dani Chattenton. By the start of the second lap Beth had a commanding lead, with Dani well clear in second. Behind the leading pair there had been a battle unfolding for the minor places throughout the race, and it was Hannah Plaschkes who came through to take third place with an impressive performance reminiscent of her dominant IInds Match victory two years earlier. There was a sprint for the line as women’s Captain Helene Greenwood came home in fourth place just ahead of new recruit Helen Record. In sixth was Sarah McCuaig, seventh and first fresher Anna Sharp, and closing the top eight was Rachel Skokowski.

Forty-five minutes after the women had set off to tackle the ups and downs of this gruelling course, it was the turn of the men. Eighty in total made for an impressive sight as they embarked on the opening uphill charge. Appearing first from behind the trees was Eoghan Totten taking control of the early pace, but all the big names were queueing up in his slipstream. A lap and a half later Luke Cotter, Luuk Metselaar and Will Christofi had established a leading trio with a comfortable margin that looked to have sealed the podium. Chasing hard was another group of three containing men’s Vice Captain Dan Mulryan, defending champion Jamie Parkinson, and I-thought-he-only-ran-on-the-track Weatherseed leading the all-important battle of the Miles. The third and last lap provided great spectating as the front three remained locked together until Christofi put in a surge on the inside downhill section and Cotter pulled clear in second. Luke had done all he could to close the gap on the climb but Downhill-Will, whose spikes have since undergone rigorous negative gradient motor doping tests, struck again and brought it home for his second Cuppers victory. Impressive running from the two Luukes (spelling compromise) saw them wrap up the medals (yes, there were actual medals). With a surge up the final straight it was JP who took fourth, Dan fifth and Miles sixth. No doubt glad to emerge onto the open finishing straight from the danger of trees and anything that might fall from them, John Spill put in a very strong run to claim seventh place and first fresher, followed by Eoghan in eighth.

Away from the front end of the races there were some gutsy performances right the way through the field and it was amazing to see such a great turn out of both men and women. Congratulations to absolutely everyone who took part and gave it their all on a highly demanding course.

Results were eagerly anticipated, mostly thanks to the debut of some very shiny new trophies. Despite minor controversy caused by the fact that Mr. L C Treasurer was rumoured to have been slightly intoxicated on giving permission for the purchase, it was soon agreed that the addition of such splendid silverware to the OUCCC collection had been a brainwave worthy of life club membership. In the regal surroundings of the King’s Arms, it was announced that the first ever etchings on the glistening, un-touched plates of glory would be none other than St. Hilda’s College for the women, and Balliol College for the men.

A fantastic day was concluded by pub golf (what else?) and general merriment from one and all. Thanks must go to Alex and Bethanie for their organisational work, and to all of the helpers and marshals who ensured the event ran smoothly. The Varsity hype has been building gradually since we set foot on the untrodden unsure-if-this-is-a-paths of Cleeve, and Cuppers has well and truly raised the bar as we now look ahead first to Milton Keynes and then on to the big day(s). #DarkBlue

Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall

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Image by Noah Hurton

This report can be accessed as a Word document here.

Victories all-round in the 2016 Town and Gown Matches

It’s been another great week for OUCCC both on the road and track with the annual Town and Gown 10k race on Sunday 15 May and the Town vs. Gown Athletics Match on Wednesday 18 May. Starting with the 10k, many of our runners took to the streets of Oxford for the 35th staging of this popular event. Luuk Metselaar flew round the scenic course, winning in a time of 31:33, 46 seconds clear of the second-placed runner, and making it a ‘Gown’ victory for the second year in a row. Oliver Paulin also had a great race, finishing 18th in 35:19. On the girls’ side, Bethanie Murray was the fourth senior woman home in an impressive personal-best time of 38:42.

Three days later Bethanie Murray was back racing in the Town vs. Gown Athletics Match, where she conclusively won the women’s 5000m in 17:32, smashing the Full Blue time in the process. This was Bethanie’s fourth 5000m PB on the track in the short space of three weeks. After a brilliant cross-country season, she’s now dominating the distance races on the track too. Niki Faulkner claimed a decisive victory in the men’s 5000m, achieving a huge PB of 15:54. And the victories did not stop there: Tom Binnie was rewarded for his win in the Mile with a very nice trophy.  It’s proving to be an extremely successful summer season for OUCCC and the best bit is that there’s still lots more left to come!

Helene Greenwood, OUCCC Women’s Captain 2016-17, University College

Full results of the Town and Gown 10k here.  Full results of the Town vs. Gown Athletics Match here.

This report can be accessed as a Word document here.