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Athletics Varsity 2014

For some of the cross country club, the track season is the dessert to the main course of cross country. It’s the treat.

And Varsity Athletics 2014 certainly was a treat. The Men’s Blues team took the match against a very strong (and confident) Cambridge Blues team, whilst the Mens Seconds narrowly lost a close-fought contest. The Women’s Blues and Seconds both lost, but not without valiant performances in the long distance events.

Starting with the Women’s, Rose Penfold and Sarah McCuaig ran away (quite literally) with the points in the 800m race, with quality performances. Both doubled up in the Mile too, coming away with 2nd and 3rd. The contribution to the team from both runners cannot be underestimated on a hot and punishing day at the track. Kate Neihaus and Emma Hodson gave it everything in the 5000m, but Cambridge’s strength in this area shone through giving them 1st and 2nd.

In the Men’s, OUCCC’s hero Tom Frith showed the adoring masses that he’s still got it. Knicknamed “The Donkey” due to his famed kick*, he took the 800m title (again) in a race controlled by Fresher Will Durkin from the gun. A valiant performance from Cambridge’s Lloyd Hilton gave Cambridge 2nd. Alex Howard showed that “you can’t win anything with kids” was just as wrong in 1998 as it is now (quote Alan Hansen, on Match of the Day) with a win in the 3k Steeple. Big things expected from this boy. In the Mile and 5000, Cambridge’s Matt Leach showed his quality with a Double win. Fresher William Christofi performed valiantly to finish strongly in 2nd in the Mile. Chris Phillips-Hart gave Cambridge a scare in the 5k, but it unfortunately a Cambridge 1, 2 meant that the Light Blues edged the distance events by one point. Far from “embarrassing”, but not a win. Looking forward to next year. *not actually one of Tom’s knicknames

In terms of the Men’s and Women’s Seconds, special commendations go to Jamie Parkinson, winning the 5k in 15.18. Unfortunately for Jamie (and Cambridge), a cross country season beckons for him. Aidan Smith and James Taylor secured the 1,2 in the 3k Steeple, whilst Katie Hickson’s won in the Mile was the stand out performance for the Women’s Seconds.

One last mention must go to Cambridge’s Paul Hodgson, helping Oxford Blues’ steeple chaser Tom Quirk across the line in their race following Tom’s sustaining of a bad foot injury. There’s the good and the great. The good win their races. The great give even more than that.

Onto the next Varsity match.

OUCCC Pre-Season Training Camp

Sponsored by OUCCC Old Members

A group of new and old OUCCC members have just returned from a fantastic week on pre-season training camp. It was a brilliant time to get to know each other bond as a team and kick-start training for the term of Tab-bashing ahead. The week is summed up perfectly by newcomer, Archie Jones:

 

Training Camp IThe OUCCC training camp was a perfect start to university. A good mix of new and old, the group gelled wonderfully to create a really welcoming environment for incoming freshers such as myself. Though the trip was and should be geared around the training, the week was really made by the people there. Raft building, blackberry picking and a bonfire provided a perfect foil to sessions while the atmosphere was at all times chilled out and friendly. At the risk of descending into histrionics, the experience was singularly great; leaving me filled with motivation for the season ahead. I didn’t do much of my essay mind you…

The training itself was tough but honest, with the right combination of miles, quality and gym work for the time of year. Guest strength and conditioning coach Ruddi Farquharson led the stand out session of the week, leaving some of us (well, me) hobbling for days afterwards… It was also great to see a squad of mixed ability training as a group where possible, with each of us pushing ourselves to the best of our own abilities in the quality sessions.

Training Camp IITo anyone considering cross country at Oxford; get involved! If you missed the pre-season camp for this year, pop down to any of our sessions to train with a great group of people! We’re also off to Portugal over Easter apparently… Finally, if you’re a runner starting at Oxford in October 2014 then don’t hesitate to sign up for next year’s camp, it really is a great introduction.

We were lucky enough to be joined by several experts. Our committed coach Jenny Harris kindly came and took our two main sessions; Dave Sunderland, head coach at England Athletics, gave us an inspirational talk and answered our questions on the key aspects training, particularly as students; and highlight of the week was certainly the strength and conditioning session lead by Birmingham University’s strength and conditioning coach, Ruddi Farquharson. Other highlights included our Women’s Vice Captain Rosemary Hurford’s wonderful cooking, raft building in which the Captain was the first to end up in the river and the composition of a new OUCCC anthem!

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people or for the week to have gone more smoothly. Everyone was enthusiastic, up for anything and clearly committed to the club and competitions coming up! I must also thank the Old Gits for your support. OUCCC couldn’t have done it without you! The week has left me inspired and very positive about the big races ahead of us. Now it’s time to recruit some more freshers and shoe some Tabs!

Training Camp III

Naomi Webber, Club Captain
October 2013

OUCCC in Gebrselassie’s Land of Runners

With a distance running pedigree rivalled only by its Kenyan neighbour, there is no better place than Ethiopia to source some pre-season advice, training and inspiration before the cross country running scene springs into action for another year. Combining this with the chance to work with two brilliant charitable organisations was therefore an opportunity that two OUCCC members, Naomi Webber and Charlotte Cole, found (unsurprisingly!) impossible to refuse.

Our first two weeks were spent with the ‘Yaya Girls Running Program’, located at the Yaya Athletics Village, 10km outside of Addis Ababa and, at 2700m above sea level, an international high altitude training facility that already counts Team GB’s Julia Bleasdale amongst its growing clientele.

Ethiopia article I‘Yaya Girls’ brings together a small group of carefully selected young athletes, many of whom have already fallen out of the schooling system in pursuit of the ‘athletics dream’ and some who even struggle to read and write in their native tongue. Here, they are not only given the best possible chance to turn their running talents into competitive success, but also provided with education, pastoral guidance and vocational skills training in order to broaden their mindset beyond the ideals of the sport and break the overwhelming mentality that running is the only career path they can aim for.

Our role was officially teaching English. However as the project is still in its opening stages we ended up helping out wherever we could. Highlights included: insulating and decorating the corrugated steel kitchen (which, during the wet season at 2700m, was freezing), teaching physiology (starting with a rendition of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’!) and spending hours in the gym teaching as many core stability exercises as we could remember.

Just how important running is to the nation, and to the girls, was revealed watched Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar battle it out in the last Diamond League 5000m of the season. The girls were resolute Defar fans and, as she edged past Dibaba in the final straight, they erupted with celebration. Never before have we seen so much excitement at the outcome of a track event!

Ethiopia article IIIOur third week was spent in the small town of Bekoji, 250km south of Addis Ababa. The town was made famous in 2011 by the documentary ‘Town of Runners’. Bekoji boasts 8 Olympic Champions, 10 World Record Holders and 32 World Champions including Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele.

Having seen the documentary and OUCCC having supported its partner charity Running Across Borders (RAB) for several years through the club’s annual Teddy Hall Relays, it was fantastic to see the positive impact that both the charity and the worldwide recognition generated by this film had brought to the region.

RAB support 6 athletes, 4 coaches to develop training in the town and employ a manager and guide, Biruk, to run the project on site and facilitate visitors who have been inspired by the film to experience the Town of Runners for themselves. The film has also funded 6 computers for the local library and a motorbike for the inspirational Coach Sentayhu.

Ethiopia article II‘Coach’, as he is known, is an exceptionally modest and welcoming man and has been training runners in Bekoji for more years than he would wish to admit to. We were lucky to be able to take part in a couple of his training sessions. Turning up at 6.30am along with over 150 members of the local community showed the title of the film was apt!

Higher participation and an inspirational coach, ultimately leads to the identification of a greater number of emerging talents. This, coupled with perfect running conditions; lengthy forest trails, optimum altitude and fertile land, has led the town producing one successful athlete to another. So it may appear to have been the birthplace of a disproportionate number of champions but it is also home to a disproportionate number of runners!

Ethiopia article VReflecting on our time in the country, one of the big things we have gained from this trip is a new found appreciation for amateur running. In Ethiopia, this concept is completely alien. One of the hardest things for the staff and volunteers on the Yaya Girls Program is to persuade the young athletes that they must be open to considering other careers whilst still taking pleasure from running alongside. It was clear from the short time we were there that at least 2 out of the 4 girls currently on the project, while talented, are unlikely to ‘make it’ professionally, but currently it is hard to motivate them to do anything else.

If this attitude could change, it would make many lives easier and running in Ethiopia much more enjoyable for many more people.

If you would like to learn more about either of the charitable organisations mentioned, the high altitude training centre at Yaya Athletics Village or the documentary ‘Town of Runners’ please follow the links below:

http://yayagirls.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/YayaGirlsRunning
http://www.yayavillage.com/
http://www.townofrunners.com/index

 

Naomi Webber and Charlotte Cole
September 2013