II-IV’s Varsity Races 2018

With the first of the two Varsity weekends finally upon us, all eyes were turned towards the Oxford II-IV’s teams on Saturday 24th November, as they took on the Tabs across the grassy plains of Priory Park, St Neots. However, as all runners prepared to set off from the city of dreaming spires, whether the athletes would even make it to the start line had to be called into question as one of the coaches failed to make an appearance on the day. Fortunately, the trusty X5 came to the rescue and ensured that everyone (well, almost) made it to the penultimate stop on this most famous coach route.

The day’s racing action kicked off with the 36th Ladies Seconds’ race at 12:30. Visiting student Caroline Shipley showed her fine American cross-country running pedigree, featuring at the forefront of the leading pack from the early stages of the race. Caroline and Cambridge’s 2015 Blues victor Emily Ruane broke away from the rest of the runners on the second lap of the 5.5km course, with Ruane ultimately taking the individual win, and Caroline coming home second. Cecilie Andersen led in the rest of the Oxford women with a gutsy run, albeit slightly adrift of a large Cambridge pack. Cecilie’s performance was all the more commendable when you consider the fact that she had been training and racing with a broken wrist! Despite her lack of spikes, South African fresher Celeste Renaud was our third Turtle home, with Team Captain Hoogy just behind. Whilst there were some great runs from the Oxford Turtles, we were ultimately beaten by a stronger Cambridge team, of which half were former Blues runners.

Next up were the Tortoises in the 75th Gentlemen’s Seconds’ race: the most hotly anticipated race of the day as per some, and it most certainly did not disappoint. There was nothing between the two teams on the first lap as a huddle of white vests seemed to make its way in perfect formation around the outskirts of the park, weaving in and out of the woods. The field began to break up on the second lap, with OUCCC Men’s Captain, Oliver Paulin ramping up the pace all the way and remaining at the very front of the race. Things were looking good for the Tortoises, especially as Team Captain Aidan continued to make his way further up the field. On the last lap of the 10.3km course it became clear that it was going to be a fight to the finish line for the individual crown with Paulin and CUH&H’s James Coxon neck and neck. Paulin ran an impressive race, finishing as Top Tortoise and winning the prized plate in the process, but lost out on the overall race win by a mere second. Kirk Smith crossed the line in fourth place overall as second Tortoise, leading in a strong Oxford pack of Smiths, broken up nicely by Williams’ visiting student Ken Marshall. Ken was fifth, Liam (Smith 2) sixth and Aidan (Smith 3) seventh. With five Oxford runners in the top seven, Paulin was adamant that the Oxford men couldn’t lose. And once the scores had been added up and a 36-42 Tortoise victory announced, he made sure to make a quick exit to avoid the ensuing well-deserved champagne spraying.

Five minutes behind the Tortoises, the Oxford Snails were off in the 68th Gentlemen’s Thirds’ race, leaving spectators and OUCCCTV lead commentator Luke Cotter running between both groups of runners in an attempt to not miss out on any of the excitement. Another closely contested race, Robbie Brown earned himself the title of OUCCC Super Snail, as well as the much-coveted plate too, crossing the line in 3rd place overall. Positions five through eight were all filled by Oxford runners: Tom Quirk, Christian Smith, Yannick Markhof and former tab turned dark blue Joe Bowness. Although all of the Oxford runners ran extremely well, with finishing times that would not have been out of place in the Men’s Seconds’ race, they narrowly missed out on the overall Thirds’ title. With the Men’s Thirds being the only race that Oxford lost last year, you can rest assured that the Snails will be back stronger than ever before over the Shotover course in 2019.

The penultimate event of the day was the 32nd Ladies’ Thirds’ race, and the first of the two Mob Match races. Thanks to Mob Match Captain Jenny’s valiant efforts at galvanising the Oxford girls, we had more dark blue runners on the start line than the Tabs did, which at an away Mob Match is already a victory in itself. The Oxford women dominated the race from the get set go with Natalie Beadle and Egle-Helene Ervin marking themselves out as early race leaders. Natalie stormed to the overall victory in a time that would’ve seen her figure in the first half of the Ladies’ Seconds’ race, and second place went to Egle. Natalie Haarer, Leah Tillmann-Morris and Annabelle Evans completed the Oxford top five, finishing fourth, sixth and eighth respectively overall. The race was nothing short of a tremendous triumph for OUCCC with the final score being declared as a 346-556 Oxford win.

Finally, it was the turn of the Mob Men in the 61st Gentlemen’s Fourths’ race. Yet more persistent recruiting, this time from Mob Match Captain Peter Guevara, along with his truly inspiring American-football team style motivational pep talk, ensured that a large Oxford team was ready and raring to take on the Tabs. Oxford’s Thomas Renshaw took the individual race title, backed up by Charlie Sneddon in second place, producing a repeat of the Oxford 1-2 finish we saw in the Ladies’ Mob Match. Joseph Grehan Bradley, OUCCC’s Marathon rep Rahil Sachak-Patwa and Ben Passey closed out the Oxford top five in overall places fourth, fifth and seventh respectively. The somewhat complicated Mob Match scoring system makes tallying up the points, whilst spectating and supporting, tricky for even the most talented of Oxford mathematicians. Everyone was waiting with baited breaths to hear the outcome of the race and fortunately we were able to celebrate another Oxford victory (943-1066).

The Mob Matches really encapsulate the essence of what cross-country running truly is about and to win both at an away II-IV’s Varsity Match is a brilliant result, and something that hadn’t previously been achieved by the Oxford Teams in quite some time. Moreover, it’s a result that highlights the incredibly high level of strength and depth that we are fortunate enough to have here at OUCCC at present, as well as the awesome team spirit. Huge congratulations to every single Oxford runner who competed in Varsity, giving it everything in their races and in doing so, helping to secure some fantastic Oxford wins. Many thanks must go to Su-Min Lee and the rest of the Cambridge Hare and Hounds for organising such a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable day of racing at St Neots. Thank you also to all the light blue runners for providing such good opposition across many tightly fought races. And with the score for the 2018 Varsity Cross-Country Races standing in balance at 3-2 at the culmination of the II-IV’s Matches, the overall result for this year was far from certain. With the Blues races yet to come, all dark blue hopes were to be pinned on the Oxford Blues Teams as they took on the fields, brooks and Butts of Wimbledon Common the following weekend…

-Helene Greenwood, University College, OUCCC Club Captain

OUCCC Takes BUCS Athletics

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

 

Top 10 Finish for Eoghan Totten at London Marathon

Oxford PhD student Eoghan Totten finished tenth in the 2018 London Marathon on Sunday, running the non-elite race in a time of two hours and 26 minutes.

One of over 40,000 runners completing the field, Totten will be the first Oxford athlete to earn a full blue in marathon. He completed the race, which was also his marathon debut, within the full blue standard time of two hours 30 minutes.

Earlier this year, Totten represented Northern Ireland in the Antrim International Cross Country.

Speaking about his debut, Totten told Cherwell: “I learned that you must respect the distance and that factors at variance with other, shorter distances, come into play over 26.2.

“For example, I was not aerobically taxed today but troubled by cramps from fluid intake, which impeded my running. I will learn from the experience and move forward.”

The marathon varsity match was won by the Oxford men’s team, however the Cambridge Hare and Hounds won the women’s match, bringing OUCCC’s varsity record this year to seven wins out of nine matches.

Katie Truslove, a junior dean at St Hilda’s College, led the Oxford women’s team, finishing in just under three and a half hours.

Rahil Sachak-Patwa was the second Oxford finisher with a time of two hours and 41 minutes, which falls within the half-blue standard and beats his personal best by one second. This is an improvement on last year, when Rahil collapsed during the closing stages of the marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge, who visited the Oxford Union for a talk about his marathon successes in Michaelmas, won the men’s marathon with a healthy lead, in a time of two hours and four minutes.

Vivian Cheruiyot, the 2016 Olympic 5000m champion, won her first London Marathon in the women’s race.

The marathon was the hottest on record, reaching a top of 24˚C.

In related news, Alexander Betts, a professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and fellow at Green Templeton College, completed the 2018 Boston Marathon earlier this month.

In doing so, Betts set the world record for running the six Abbott World Marathon Majors in the fastest combined time, averaging at two hours 41 minutes.

-Alice Bruce, Mansfield College