Excluding the ESAA championships for younger athletes, the CAU Inter-counties is generally the final race of what can seem to be a very long cross country racing calendar. This year, the event was to be held in combination with both the British Athletics Cross Challenge Final and the trials for the World Cross Championships, a tripartite combination which allowed for the very catchiest of event programme titles. Traditionally held at Birmingham’s Cofton Park, this year’s change of venue to Prestwold Hall just outside Loughborough was largely unwelcome in the run-up to the race, a sentiment to be cemented by the discovery of the testing conditions of the new course.
The journey for the Oxford contingent did not start off as seamlessly as would have been liked, with certain individuals apparently disputing the winning of the title of OUCCC’s ‘worst navigator’ at the recent annual awards dinner and sending the trek decidedly off-piste. Nevertheless, after finally reaching the venue and quickly warming up, the dark blue runners in the slightly less dark blue vests of their respective counties toed the line and were ready for the off.
Leading the Oxford runners home in the first race of the day (junior men) was DBJ who, in endeavouring to prove his future OUCCC career will be as successful as will be his rapping, finished in an outstanding 12th place running for Oxfordshire. In her last race as women’s captain Helene Greenwood debuted in the senior women’s category with an impressive 99th for Oxfordshire, followed by Tilly Woods (189th, Devon) and Natalie Beadle (212th, Cumbria); likewise the junior women were well represented by Kathy Peters (73rd, Sussex), Aileen Kearney (116th, Merseyside) and Anna Sharp (129th, Hampshire). To culminate the day’s racing the senior men faced 12k of gruelling Loughborough mud with Olly Paulin (96th, Warwickshire) and Noah Hurton (233rd, Cumbria) also having brilliant runs, ones that are likely to be particularly worthwhile if Vice-Captain Spill eventually gets his way and increases the length of the Cuppers course. All runs reflected two terms’ worth of an intense training and racing cross country schedule, and all should be proud of the achievements of this season.