Having travelled up to Leeds on the full coach the day before, the team was the biggest that Southampton University has ever entered into the BUCS Cross Country Championships. After a team meal and race briefing on Friday evening, we were ready to face all that BUCS had to offer. The Cross Country Championships attracted over 1200 athletes running on the day, with a men’s A race (six members on each team) a women’s race, and a men’s B race.
The ground was very wet and muddy before the running even started, and at the end of the first race the entire course was unavoidable ankle deep mud, making every stride a huge effort, even when not on a hill.
The men’s A race was just under 10km, and after a two laps of biding his time, Southampton’s Steve Connor broke into the lead for what will have been the loudest run of his life, with cheers, shouts, sirens and cowbells spurring him through the mud to the finish line at just over 33 minutes; a time which would be remarkable even on flat tarmac, and which won him the individual gold medal 2013. Steve is the first ever Southampton athlete to do so and his picture has already been put on the cover of the latest edition of Athletics Weekly magazine.
Aside from Steve’s glory, awe-inspiring performances were put in from the rest of the men’s first team, with Alex Teuten arriving less than a minute later, and Jack Gregory shortly afterwards, followed by Jonathon Roberts, David Lewis, and Jake Bradley, all with strong races.
The fantastic first team came eighth out of 53 Universities in the team scores.
The women’s race followed, with 16 ladies racing very well and finishing six places higher in the team event than last year bringing them into the top half of the contenders. Notable efforts include Martha Neal, Sophie Darling, Emma Hopkins and Lucy Barrie for all finishing in the first 200 athletes, however all 16 racers impressed the men’s team with their determination and performance.
The men’s B team then had a chance to compete in their race at a distance of 7.55km. All worked hard throughout, and the first four men in were Will Cowell, Alex Marrison, Tom Englander and Ollie Hill, giving a team position of 37 out of 82 (However the B race does not create opportunity for scoring BUCS points.)
The team will be triumphantly washing the Leeds mud out of their vests and shoes whilst eagerly awaiting the BUCS Indoor Athletics Championships in two weeks, so stay tuned!
Many thanks to John Wright and SUACCC for the race report.