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

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