Club athletes represented a variety of Universities in the British Universities and Colleges Cross-Country Championships in a blustery Senneleys Park, Birmingham on Saturday 5th February 2011. As ever the standard of the field was incredibly high as evidenced in the first race of the afternoon where John Wills (now studying medicine at Leeds) finished 36th in 37.26 (a week after finishing 14th in the Midlands). Behind him Mike Wilsmore (running for Plymouth) finished 51st in 38.05 to just get the better of Steve Francis (Bristol University) 53rd in 38.06. Next for Bristol University were Chris Dodd (114 in 40.30) and Andrew Woods (126 in 40.50). It was a tough course with hardly a flat stretch that for the senior men was two short and four long legs for the 10 kilometres and was more like a prolonged hill session made even tougher by the wind. As ever there was a battle royal between Birmingham, Loughborough and St Mary’s with Nick Goolab leading the Birmingham squad to victory.
In the Ladies race Charlotte Purdue continued her impressive winter with a clear victory, but couldn’t lead St Mary’s to a team win as they were beaten by Loughborough (winners) and by Birmingham (who gained the runners-up spot on count-back). Imogen Ainsworth (Bristol University) showed that a month of lost training had taken its toll as she finished 23rd in 30.27 for the 7 kilometres (one small and three large laps) – with the pressure off a smiling Imo seemed to enjoy the race. If Imo had been unlucky before the race, then Hannah Alderson must take the prize for unluckiest runner during the race as a spiking in the first 100 metres left her dead last (as she had to stop to put her shoe back on) and – to add injury to insult – a nice spike cut also needed treatment after the race. Nevertheless she seemed to gain momentum as she moved through the field and finished 25th in 30.34 after moving up to Imo’s shoulder with half a mile to go. Another club athlete performing well was Rosemary Hurford representing Oxford with her usual gusto and a spirited finish saw her in 116th place in 34.20 (and left your reporter with divided loyalties as she battled down the straight with Sally Cervenak of Bristol University – the latter prevailing by one second). There were 318 finishers. Amongst the non-finishers was Aniika Jarman (Bath University) who ran herself to a stand still and pulled out dizzy and sick at the highest point of the course with a lap to go. I hope Annika has recovered from whatever bug she was about to go down with by the National in two weeks time – the Under-20 women’s team badly need her to challenge for a team medal.
The course was relatively firm under foot (with one exception – surprisingly at the top of the course) and the type of course will have given those with plans of running the Inter-Counties at Cofton Park – only a few miles away from Senneleys – a good idea of what to expect in four weeks time.