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BUCS Cross Country Championship

Race report - 31st Jan 2015, University of Sussex

For university athletics and cross country teams up and the down the country, the BUCS Cross Country Championships stand as the highlight of the annual sporting calendar. With each team donning their colours through kit and war paint, and rivalries between the likes of St. Mary’s and Birmingham, the championships provide a jovially tribal atmosphere which ultimately unifies teams in one shared enjoyment of athletics through battling the mud, wind and rain that is traditionally synonymous with cross country running.

With the University of Sussex hosting this year’s event, the first challenge of the weekend for the Huddersfield team was the six hour coach journey down to Brighton on the Friday. Over the last four years, the university has seen significant developments in the uptake of athletics and it was great to have a squad of nineteen athletes raring to compete and excitedly filing on to the bus to endure the journey ahead. Fast forward six and half hours and, after two rest stops, excitable discussion, sleep for some and a team-composed work of fiction, we arrived at our accommodation for the weekend. Following dinner, distribution of kit, and a polite warning from hotel staff to “play quietly”, it was time to rest up.

RobPeterHB 2 BUCs 15 320

Peter Brooks with Robert Hinchliffe-Smith
currently studying Physics at Leicester

Enter race day and, as the team started to file down to breakfast, conversation turned to war paint designs, spike length for shoes, aims for finishing position and if anyone had masking tape to secure one’s footwear. Once again convening on the bus, we embarked on the brief journey across to Stanmer Park and, after sending Warren and Sam to go and register, set up camp alongside the many other universities and took in our surroundings. Walking parts of the course proved beneficial in being prepared for what lay ahead. A sharp ascent for an initial 800m loop for both men’s race, a long steady ascent across relatively soft grass to reach the woods which, on a rocky trail surface, gave some rest before tackling a steep climb to the top of the woods which was then followed by a long descent which, in dry conditions, would be devastatingly quick. However, with some rain in the lead up to the weekend, and with the Southern Cross Country Championships having run an almost identical course the weekend prior, we were faced with a treacherous descent of wet mud which, whilst still undoubtedly quick, was also inevitably prone to many slips, slides and falls.

11:55 soon approached and it was time for the men’s ‘A’ race competitors to line up on the start. Positioned nicely over to the right, in between the squads of Cambridge and Nottingham Trent, the Huddersfield squad were in a good position to approach the first left hand corner without fear of getting boxed in and losing position. On the dot of twelve the starter’s gun sounded and with it the BUCS Cross Country Championships of 2015 began with a fierce sprint along the hundred metre straight to obtain good position before settling into a pace suited for the 12km that lay ahead. Each of the Huddersfield athletes battled well with enthusiastic, and much appreciated, support coming from the other members of the squad spectating along the course. A short time after Birmingham’s Johnny Hay crossed the line in first position, Huddersfield’s first finisher was Peter Brookes finishing in 81st position. Next to finish was UHTAF captain Warren Herridge who ran well to finish in 246th. The remaining athletes also ran an impressive race to pack closely with club and students’ union president, Josh Elderfield, finishing in 281st closely followed by BUCS debutant James Swinton in 286th. Another four places behind found the blue-haired Sam Hudson finishing well in 290th with Chris Green rounding off the Huddersfield contingent another five places behind in 295th. With the first four out of the six athletes forming the scoring team, a total of 894 points meant a team position of 43rd out of an overall 51 with the University of Birmingham claiming victory.

A short while after the conclusion of the men’s ‘A’ race it was the women’s turn to take to the course with Huddersfield’s four female athletes lining up ready to run 6km comprising two large laps of significantly softer ground churned up by the preceding men’s race. With GB international Emelia Gorecka, representing Royal Holloway, taking the honours with a commanding run and Birmingham taking the team title once again, the Huddersfield squad were fast approaching the finish with Lizzie Sutherland impressively crossing the line first in 232nd place. Clare Dignan ran strongly to finish in 356th with Elizabeth Tranter running well for 444th. Rounding off the Huddersfield contingent was returning athlete Kirsty Leih who ran a good race to finish in 473rd. With a women’s team comprising three athletes, a score of 1032 meant a team position of 49th out of an overall 53.  

Along with the final race of the day, the men’s ‘B’ race, came a sudden downpour which led to a further softening of an already churned up course. Owing to the limit of six athletes for the men’s ‘A’ race, the ‘B’ comprises a mix of athletes who were either not selected for the longer race or simply opted for the shorter distance with a certain portion of sprinters who take the chance to compete away from the track over a longer distance and have a good time in the mud. This combination often makes for an entertaining start with blistering sprints along the first straight before the true distance athletes take over for the remaining 7900 metres of the total 8km distance. Huddersfield had an impressive turnout of nine athletes for the ‘B’ race with returning athlete Ben Naylor finishing as first counter in 268th position. Euan Mortimer ran a strong race to finish in 362nd with Tom Burton and Nick Beculard running very impressively to finish in 376th and 383rd respectively. With these four forming the first of the two Huddersfield teams, the next finisher was Jake Dewbery who ran well for 387th with Connor Yeates finishing well not far behind in 412th. Charlie McMoran was next to finish in 419th with Liam Pattison rounding off the second scoring team in 424th. Capping off the Huddersfield contingent for the ‘B’ race was Hoang Nguyen who finished shortly behind in 433rd and with that the BUCS Cross Country championships were over for another year for Huddersfield. With total scores of 1389 and 1642, the ‘B’ race teams finished in 83rd and 94th positions out of an overall 95 complete teams. St. Mary’s spectacularly took the team title with their four counters filling the top four positions as is often the case owing to the depth of talent they possess.

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Peter Brooks (far left front) and Sam Hudson (above the ‘i’ in "Uni")

With a total of nineteen athletes all starting and finishing their respective races, the University of Huddersfield enjoyed strong performances and a representation which rivalled many of the other institutions. A pleasing observation was the representation of local athletics clubs within the university club with Peter Brookes and Sam Hudson being members of Holmfirth Harriers, also with Robert Hinchliffe (representing the University of Leicester) who ran a brilliant ‘B’ race to finish in 195th position. Longwood Harriers were also well represented by Kirsty Leih, Chris Green and Josh Elderfield (also a member of Medway & Maidstone); with Warren Herridge for Skyrac (home club of Stevenage & North Herts) and finally Clare Dignan for Sale Harriers.

With the successes of the 2015 BUCS Cross Country Championships fresh in our legs we hope to continue this into our next two competitions with the Indoor Championships in Sheffield from the 20th to the 22nd of February; and the Outdoor Championships down in Bedford from the 2nd to the 4th of May.

Peter Brooks

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