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12 Months of BUAC - February (Part 1)

With January out of the way, and second term in full swing, it should be no surprise that events came thick and fast throughout February. With not one, but two BUCS events, and BUACers competing across Europe, there was plenty of action to sink one's teeth into.

With so much action contained in one month, this piece covers the first half, up to the Armagh International.



After Tom Keen's smash and grab raid north of the border in the previous month, when the lions of BUAC heard there was more silverware to be had in the hyperborean metropolis of Edinburgh, they amassed a pack of not insignificant number, on the hunt for gold, silver and bronze at BUCS Cross Country.

(L to R) O'Neill, Palmer, Hobbs and Grice lead

With the women's short race the first of the day, expectations were high, with 35 athletes running in red and gold. A competitive race saw 21 of those finishing in the top 100 - a strength in depth unmatched by any other university. Leading the BUAC contingent home was cross star Kate O'Neill, whose stellar season was punctuated with a BUCS bronze, after following two Loughborough athletes over the line.

Emma Coates cheers on O'Neill, Grice and Palmer

Next athlete over was Maisie Grice, finishing sixth, and Yas Austridge was tenth to complete the BUAC A team, securing an overall team silver. The minute after Yas finished saw a slew of Birmingham athletes finish, with Elisha Tait, Elsa Palmer, Hannah Hobbs, Katie Stevens, Aine Cunningham, Lucy Thornton and Lily Higgins finishing between 13th and 23rd, to make it ten athletes total in the first 25 finishers. The tight packing by the women's teams meant that BUAC B and C finished fourth and fifth on the day, beating the A teams of distance-running powerhouse St Mary's, as well as Leeds, Cambridge, and hosts Edinburgh.

The pack waiting for the gun

The men's short race followed, and in a highly competitive field, Ollie Newman and Joe Hudson were the highest scorers for BUAC in fifth and twelfth. In a compact race, there was barely half a minute separating Joe from the next BUAC finisher, Matt Rawlings, but it was enough to place the Reading athlete 33rd. Tight packing followed, with Oliver Dustin, Mike Proffitt, Max Walk, Ben Thomas, Josh Knight, and Paddy Magner all inside the top 50. With four athletes scoring, rather than the women's three, the BUAC team finished sixth overall.

Tom Mackman is typically used to two lap races, so three laps of Holyrood Park was always going to be a stretch. After securing the BUCS B 800 metres title the year prior, leading the field through the distance before being led through the finish line by 169 others, he looked to defend his title on the Scottish turf, putting in a strong effort to once again secure his imaginary gold. Laurels secured, the Brighton Phoenix athlete was done for the day, and dropped out to hit the showers early and begin the celebrations as soon as possible.

The action turned back to women's racing next, with the showpiece, the long race. The Birmingham women's team were well fancied to be in and around the medals, with 2019 individual silver medallist Amelia Quirk returning to the team, and Niamh Brown and Sabrina Sinha, Kate Palfreeman-Watt rounding out a strong lineup of national and international medallists.

Amelia with the early leaders

Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, and sitting within the lead group for the first half lap, Amelia was forced to retire, and so it was left to the three remaining BUAC athletes to make up the team. Niamh led the trio home in 11th, with Sabrina in 20th, and Kate in 26th - had Amelia finished, it would have been the strongest 4 person team performance on the day bar that of St Mary's. The team, despite losing Amelia, came home in fifth place, once again highlighting the ability contained within the Birmingham ranks.

The men's long race was the final race of the day, and with a stacked line-up of six thoroughbreds ready and raring to race, there was a thrilling event in prospect. BUAC marathon record holder Alex Lanz was joined by dentistry student pairing Mike Ward and Charlie Davis, as well as Northern trio James Gormley, Tom Drabble and Andy Heyes.

Davis and Gormley in the pack, with alum Mark Pearce wearing the wrong red and gold vest
Jay Rossiter on BUAC duties beating St Mary's

Solent's Mahamed Mahamed ran away with the race, but the third man across the line was associate club member Jay Rossiter, who showed true BUAC spirit in winning bronze in a dip finish to edge out Daniel Jarvis of St Mary's. Mark Pearce, the Luke Gunn-coached Birmingham Track Elite member and alumnus now running for Keele, was sixth.

First fully paid-up member home was Mike Ward, finishing ninth, barely 15 seconds ahead of Gormley and Heyes, who crossed the line in a tightly packed field for 14th and 15th. Another 15 seconds back from the duo was Davis, in 19th. The Blackheath & Bromley athlete rounded out the Birmingham scorers, securing the team result, before the vast majority of universities had brought a single athlete home. Drabble and Lanz finished down the field in 82nd and 111th respectively, but all six had cause to celebrate as their efforts had secured them a team silver medal.

Full results can be found here.

Mike Proffitt's writeup can be found here.

James Davis' Redbrick writeup can be found here.

Vienna Indoor Classic

Keen with coach Mark Vile

Content with just the single medal in Scotland for the year, on the same day as BUCS Cross Tom Keen was in Vienna, to compete in the Indoor Classic meeting as part of the English team for the event. With a 3:43.97 personal best set at the previous year's Loughborough International, the Cambridge & Coleridge athlete was in search of a new best, after some decent early season form.

Finishing third in the race, Keen clocked 3:41.44, which would have been incredible if it were only a 2.5 second improvement on his best, but it was also a British U20 indoor record, breaking the previous seven years old mark by over a second.

Vienna was the ideal meeting for Tom, with the calibre of athletes being strong enough for a quick race, including England teammate at the meet Archie Davis.

The aim in Vienna was to get the British record, which I did, so I was really happy with that. Tom Keen

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

The all-time rankings can be found here.

The team announcement can be found here.


Reykjavík International Games

Zialor in action at BUCS later in the month

After securing her first ever selection to an England team, Laura Zialor travelled to Reykjavík, Iceland, to compete in the high jump. Clearing 1.78 at the second time of asking, she came second to strong Swedish junior Louise Ekman on countback.

My 2020 season was very short and sweet. I only competed indoors, however, I achieved some of my proudest achievements to date. I got to represent England in my first ever international competition in Reykjavik, placing second with an equal indoor best, and a few weeks later went on to win my first gold BUCS medal with a new indoor PB of 1.81m. At BUCS, I experienced being the favourite on paper for the first time at a major championship, so navigating around the extra nerves and emotions was a new obstacle I had to overcome, and being able to deliver on my main goal of the season was an amazing feeling. Five days after BUCS I had the British Championships in Glasgow where I came 7th, it was not the best day at the office, to say the least, but we move, that is the life of an athlete and failure is a part of our success, we learn from it, adapt and improve. 2020 season over and out, bring on 2021. Up the BUAC! Laura Zialor

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.

The team announcement can be found here.



After an outing in Sheffield the week prior for the Steel Cup, the Power section of the club once again massed their ranks to travel south this time, as they made the trip to Lee Valley for the Loughborough-organised Intervarsity match, which doubled as a BUCS trial in some events.

There were plenty of winners on the day for the club, and Tilly Simpson produced a big 800/1500 double. In the men's middle distance, Tom Dodd produced 1:51.76 for the win in his first ever indoor 800, while Tom Mackman secured a 1500 best in 4:17.10.

In the sprints, Cam Bailey blew the field away with a rapid 22.36 in the one-lap event, with Jonny Currie running 25.50 two races after for a PB, while in the centre of the track, Denzell Owusu took the men's 60 B race in a speedy 7.11.

The field events saw three victories for BUAC, with the dependable Jake Burkey jumping 6.68 in the long jump. In the high jump, Luke Okosieme jumped 2.00 exactly, his second time hitting the two metre milestone in just a few weeks. Emma Bakare performed well for the women, putting 12.70 to take the shot title by a metre.

Issy Boffey's writeup can be found here.

Full results can be found here.

World Unis XC Squad Announced

The 5th also saw the squads announced for the World University XC Championships. On the strength of their seasons and performances in the year to date, Amelia Quirk was selected to the women's team, with James Gormley selected to the men's. Associate member Mark Pearce also made the team, just reward for a strong championship performance.

The BUCS announcement can be found here.


Birmingham/Midland League Round 4

BUAC women's team, Midland League Round 4

As the focus of much of the club was turning to BUCS Indoors, it was still up to BUAC's hardiest to finish off the season in style, at the fourth round of their respective cross country leagues.

After a last minute plea filled out the men's team and avoided a relegation that would have added insult to the injury of the 200 point penalty from the first race of the season, seven men raced in BUAC colours in Leamington Spa.

Jack Shayler looking zen on the course

Charlie Davis led the team home in 6th, with Paddy Magner and Jack Shayler also inside the top 25 in 17th and 23rd. Nicest man in BUAC Joe Read was close behind in 28th, with James Horrex, Mayank Mishra, and Keir Sullivan in 108th, 153rd and 200th. Despite an under-par showing in the final round, the team finished third overall in the league for the season, which would have been second had they not suffered the first-round penalty.

On an individual note, Charlie secured second in the league behind Birchfield's Omar Ahmed, after finishing second, seventh and sixth in his three races.

On the women's side, a delegation of six travelled to the Leamington Spa venue, racing in the same place as the men's team for the first time in the season. There were two top 10 finishes for Katie Stevens and Louisa Whittingham in eighth and ninth, backed up by Meg Ormond and Lizzie Squibbs in 18th and 21st. Alice O'Kane and Lucy Pittard rounded out the line-up in 45th and 60th to secure team bronze on the day, and win the overall league for the year.

The men's team after the final fixture

Men's results can be found here.

Women's results can be found here.


CrossCup Rotselaar

Newman (9529) and Tarragano (9583) making a splash

The Belgian CrossCup took place in Rotselaar, in east Belgium. England sent senior and junior representative teams, and the men's juniors featured both Ollie Newman and Tomer Tarragano in their team of four.

The women's senior race had both a Northern area team, and after the European Clubs Cross Country Championships were cancelled, Aldershot, Farnham and District were also given entries by the English Cross Country Association, sending a team to race alongside the English team. Kate Palfreeman-Watt raced for the North, and Maisie Grice raced for her home club of Aldershot, Farnham and District.

In the men's junior race, Newman and Tarragano were a key part in a complete English lockout of the front of the field, finishing second and third between Matthew Stonier and Charlie Brisley of Invicta East Kent.

In the women's senior race, Palfreeman-Watt and Grice finished in together in 26th and 27th, with Grice the third member home for the AFD team.

England Athletics coverage can be found here.

Full results can be found here.

Power of 10 results can be found here.


Armagh International

Across the channel, and just before BUCS Indoors, the Armagh International attracted athletes from all over, drawing the fastest road racers for a women's 3K and a men's 5K.

In the women's race, Kate Palfreeman-Watt and Louisa Whittingham finished a second apart, with 9:56 and 9:57 for 48th and 50th on their Armagh debuts.

A larger BUAC group raced in the men's field, led home by Welshman James Vincent in 14:36 for a big 22 second improvement on his 2018 time at the same race. Oliver Dustin produced a 33 second personal best for 14:42, and Jack Shayler and Joe Hudson both dipped under 15 minutes for the first time with 14:55 and 14:59, the former having done so after surviving being trampled at the start in a large fall.

Ben Thomas secured a huge 47 second improvement on his previous best with a 15:10, and Joe Connors also ran home a personal best, 18 seconds faster than his 2019 time, with a time of 15:19. Morgan James rounded out the large Welsh section of BUAC in Ireland for the day, 15:36 his time.

The highlight of the day from a BUAC perspective came in the form of Jonny Davies, recent alum and Birmingham Track Elite member, who was second overall in a time of 13:44 for a PB on the roads and a very handsome £100 in prize money.

Louisa after her scholarship move to GMU
The month of February brought me XC team wins, great experiences and PBs. BUCS XC started off the month, racing in Edinburgh was an incredible experience, captaining a wonderful team of girls whilst showing off my somewhat limited rapping skills to motivate the team pre-race. In terms of the race, individually it wasn’t what I wanted but was still a great trip, as BUCS XC always is. A week later at the final Midland League we finished off the cross-country season with a team win and individually finishing the highest I had all season. Probably one of the highlights of my very short-lived racing season was travelling to Armagh with Kate PW to race a 3k on the roads. Even with a tumble Kate still managed to zoom past me on the home straight, but coming away with my first sub-10 performance I was very pleased and optimistic for the rest of the season. A few days before Armagh I got a message from Gunny asking me to race at BUCS Indoors in the 3000m, just two days after Armagh. I agreed even though I’d never raced indoors before. In hindsight it was one of the best decisions I made all year, I made the final, placing 7th and scoring BUCS points for BUAC whilst gaining a track 3000m PB. I feel very privileged to have been able to have such a fun and race-filled February, it was the highlight of my 2020 race season. Louisa Whittingham

Full results can be found here.

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