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 second half, from BUCS Indoors to the month's end.
Back at Sheffield once again for another Indoor Championships, the BUAC team were raring to go, with a number of athletes coming in off stellar runs of form.
The first medal for Birmingham came on the first night of the championships, on the track, as the 60 metre hurdles were one of two finals contested on the Friday. Loyal club servant Jake Porter looked to improve upon his bronze in the hurdles from the previous year, and after producing a strong qualifying run, went faster still in the final to secure a silver in 8.00. The silver was a just reward for Porter, who held his nerve after a false start mix-up led to most athletes completing the entire race before realising it had been called back, and having to re-run it completely.
Saturday was a day of qualifying and heats, but it would be remiss to mention the second day of the championships, and not detail the goings on of the mascot race. Rory the Lion ran for Birmingham, and when the athletes were called to their marks, he was overcome with a moment of unbridled pa$$ion, as 2019/20's XC Captain Dan Carpenter would refer to it, chose to hug the starter's assistant. Unfortunately for Rory, it was a love so unrequited it was rewarded with a conduct warning, and the mascots then were reset ready to start the race proper.
When the report of the gun sounded, Rory stood motionless on the line. While the other mascots raced their singular lap of the track, Rory, knowing the real competition was taking place in the field, took a run up and jumped into the long jump pit, before celebrating wildly, and climbing atop the rostrum that was to be used for the medal presentations the day after.
Not content there, Rory subsequently ran an entire solo victory lap, before encountering obstacles at the finish in the form of sorely jealous rivals Dumyat the Dog from Stirling, and Strathosaurus of Strathclyde.
Those wishing for further high-octane BUAC action had to wait until Sunday, the final day of the championships. A day which saw 18 athletes competing in the finals of their events got off to a strong start, with associate member Mark Pearce winning a silver for Keele, as Mike Ward finished two places behind in the 3000 final. James Gormley also raced as defending champion from the previous year, finishing seventh.
The next discipline on track was that belonging to the two track captains, Issy Boffey and Jack Hocking. With Issy up first, and competing as the fastest qualifier from the morning's semi-finals by over a second, she was a clear favourite to win the race, and did so in style, running 53.65 for a new personal best and to go #59 on the British indoor all-time lists.
A silver medallist at the 2019 championships, Jack contended for the medal placings for much of the race, before eventually being run out of it into fourth place in a time 48.37.
In the field, Emma Bakare had started the morning strongly, showing exemplary multitasking ability to compete in both the triple jump and shot put finals at the same time. The ex-heptathlete put the shot 12.54 for fifth place, and jumped almost as far, 11.64 for the same position in the triple jump final.
In the men's vertical jumps, both Danny Lamb and Jake Burkey had qualified for the long jump final, with the latter doing so in second. Had he replicated his 7-metre plus qualifying jump, he would have been in the medals, but his 6.88 placed him an agonising fourth. Lamb finished tenth, highlighting the strength in depth in the BUAC squad.
At the same time, both high jump finals were going on in the centre of the track, with Laura Zialor the class of the women's field. Two heights above the nearest challenger, the Marshall Milton Keynes athelte jumped 1.81, two centimetres shy of her personal best, to take home BUAC's second gold of the day. For the men, Luke Okosieme was jumping, and his 1.96 gave him fifth on countback ahead of three others jumping the same height.
Back on track, Cesca Brint and Tom Dodd had made it to their respective 800 finals. Showing good strength, Brint led through the first two laps, and despite being overtaken by a Cambridge athlete, kicked strongly to secure a silver medal in a time of 2:11.08. Dodd, eleven days after his first ever indoor race, ran his third in as many days in his final, a season's best of 1:51.00 and a fourth place his reward.
The 1500 races were the last individual races on track, and living up to our reputation as a middle distance powerhouse, we were the only university with two athletes qualifying for both the men's and women's finals.
In the women's race, the athletes sat in a bunch through the Sabrina Sinha, silver medallist over the distance outdoors in 2019, ran a 4:30.34 for fifth, while Maisie Grice ran close to her personal best for 4:32.41 and ninth.
The men's equivalent saw Joe Tuffin and Tom Keen battle in a tactical race that saw a fast finish after some lax running early on. With the first six covered by just over a second and a half, the race was proof that sometimes you can throw the form book out of the window, with fastest athlete on paper Keen placing third. Tuffin finished sixth to score plenty of BUCS points, and secure the best combined BUAC finish in any event.
After the event, Keen was philosophical about his performance.
The less said about BUCS the better. I knew I was the favourite and took in a bit too much confidence and paid for it. I’ve learnt from that never to underestimate a field. Tom Keen
The final involvement for Birmingham in the championships was the women's 4x200 relay, with a team of Hannah Kelly, Hannah Jones, Lauren Butler, and Issy Boffey, the track captain stepping down in distance even further. With the team in third and fourth for much of the early race, the captain received the baton out of the medals on the fourth leg, kicking hard from the off to overtake not just the Brunel athlete in third, but the Bath athlete in second, to secure a third silver medal of the championships, and a new club record of 1:39.85.
At the end of the championships when all races had been run and points added, Birmingham placed second in the men's competition, third in the women's, and a highly impressive second overall.
Jonny Currie's writeup can be found here.
Full results can be found here.
Full coverage of the championships can be found on the BUCS YouTube channel.
Tom Keen AW Article
Fresh from breaking records in Vienna and a BUCS bronze medal, our very own Tom Keen broke onto the pages of AW with an interview covering his stellar performance on the continent, as well as how the Mark Vile-coached athlete was managing the transition to university.
The article can be read here.
Nottingham played home to the National Cross Championships in 2020, and the 12.9K senior men's course gave a degree of respite for those who had suffered through the 15K equivalent at the Southern Championships.
Four BUAC athletes covered the distance, though the quartet all came in behind associate member Jay Rossiter, who placed 13th. Lead Birmingham athlete home was Charlie Davis, placing 29th to cap off an outstanding month for the Blackheath athlete.
Joe Read and Josh Knight placed well in the 1700-strong field, achieving 182nd and 195th respectively, the former improving five places on his 2019 performance, and the latter showing good form on his senior debut at the race.
Jamie Ward finished 279th on his senior debut, powering through his third cross country race of the month in a strong return to racing.
The senior women's race saw two top 100 finishers for BUAC. Niamh Brown placed 15th over the 9K distance cementing yet another outstanding season for her on the country. Aldershot, Farnham and District also brought home the gold medal for the team competition, helped in part by individual gold medallist and BUCS champion Anna Emilie Møller. Brown's clubmate Katie Stevens came 78th, a huge 261 place improvement on her senior debut the previous year.
The junior races contained the bulk of the Birmingham athletes, and that included four of the top 20, as Joe Hudson and Tomer Tarragano came 8th and 9th, Ollie Newman 12th, and Max Walk 18th. Hudson backed up his strong BUCS result with his top ten finish, while Tarragano's ninth was the lowest he finished in any race the entire cross season. Newman and Walk both improved over twenty places on their 2019 performances, showing strong gains in the previous 12 months.
After Hudson and Tarragano, Ethan O'Shea and Kristian Imroth were the next BUAC pairing to come in two-by-two, placing 35th and 36th. O'Shea, the Leicestershire & Rutland County Schools' champion, was three seconds ahead of Imroth, winner of the Hertfordshire equivalent, at the line.
AFD athlete Joe Blacknell finished 50th, just ahead of Vale Royal's Harry Dexter in 54th. Jack Johnson added to the strength of the BUAC/AFD contingent in 67th, and Dan Schofield was just behind for Tonbridge in 69th. Matt Clutterbuck finished 78th, and Bill Chesters was the final athlete for Birmingham inside the top 100, in 93rd.
In the women's junior race, five athletes inside the top 25 was an incredible result as Amelia Quirk took her second XC title of the year after winning the Southern Championships, ahead of BUCS silver medallists Izzy Fry and Giorgia Chattwood. The Bracknell team also won team gold, thanks in large part to Amelia's strong performance, making it a perfect double for the defending champion. Much like the Southerns, Kate O'Neill was next across the line for BUAC after Amelia, placing seventh in a strong field.
After Yasmin Austridge of Blackheath and Bromley ran well for 23rd, the athlete rounding out the silver-winning AFD team was Beanie Brown, who finished in 28th place. Tracking Beanie all the way across the line was Aine Cunningham, the Sale Harrier coming 29th in her sole competitive outing for the year other than BUCS Cross.
There was a five second gap between Midlands Cross champ Lily Higgins and Kent County bronze medallist Lucy Elms, the sole Dulwich Runners athlete in the race. The pair came in in 36th and 37th. The BUAC athletes inside the top 100 were rounded out by Beth Sykes and Laura Trask, a pair of incoming freshers, with Sykes in 46th, and Trask, Hallamshire clubmate of Kate Palfreeman-Watt, in 53rd. The performances bode well for the athletes, both still in their first year in the age group.
February was a busy month for me. Two weeks after one of my best ever races, BUCS XC, where we got team silver, I was asked to do the 3000 at BUCS Indoors. Having never done an indoor 3000, (or a proper attempt at an outdoor 3000 for that matter!) I went into it with the aim of just making the final. After a sprint finish I came second in the heat with a big PB of 10:06.70, automatically qualifying for the final. Cross captain, Louisa Whittingham, qualified in the second heat and we both took on the final together - well, she took it on and finished in 7th whilst I got dropped to 12th! Despite being disappointed with my race in the final, I had such a fun weekend racing and supporting the rest of BUAC. The following week a group of BUAC girls competed at Wollaton Park in the National Cross Country Champs. With lots of mud and logs to hurdle around the course I was in my element and placed 23rd. That was my final race of the season and, although I didn’t know it at the time, would be my last race for a long while! Yasmin Austridge
Full results can be found here.
Despite two BUCS championships having come and gone, the month of February was far from done approaching the weekend of the 22nd/23rd. While plenty of club members were out on the turf at the National, a separate deputation were slightly warmer at the British Indoor Championships in Glasgow.
Jake Porter, fresh from his medal-winning performance at BUCS Indoors, went in the 60 metre hurdles. Putting together a strong pair of races, 8.08/8.12 in the heats and the final, Porter finished fifth, making the top five for the fourth year in a row. VIDEO
In the men's 200, first year Cameron Bailey made it through to the semi-finals after clocking 22.00 in his heat. Unfortunately Bailey, a sub-22 man at his best, ran a slightly slower 22.32 in his semi-final, failing to qualify for the final.
Alum and World Championships semi-finalist Chris McAlister and track captain Jack Hocking both qualified from their respective heats in the 400 with 48.10 and 48.71. Drawn together in the second semi-final, unfortunately Hocking did not start the race, and McAlister slowed to a 48.63 for fifth, out of contention.
It wouldn't be a major championships without major BUAC representation in the middle distance races, and the men's 800 had all kinds of club members, with incoming fresher Ollie Carvell, elder statesmen of the club Joe Tuffin and Tom Dodd, as well as associate member Chris Byron. All bar Byron showed up for heat one, and the trio finished well-spaced in third, fifth and seventh. Season's bests of 1:50.81 and 1:51.85 for Dodd and Carvell were unfortunately not enough to qualify for the following day's final, nor was Tuffin's 1:53.22. Byron, the Birchfield Harrier, produced a 1:53.88 for seventh in the third heat.
The women's equivalent featured incoming freshers Annie Testar and Ellie Farrow, as well as alumna Mari Smith, in heat one. Smith led the field home in 2:06.46, as Testar managed 2:10.11 for fourth, and Farrow 2:13.56 for sixth. Smith was the sole athlete of the three to qualify for the final, and when she got there the Birchfield athlete ran away from the rest of the field with youthful star Keely Hodgkinson, who pulled away from her over the final stretch to leave her with a silver medal in 2:04.72. VIDEO
In the men's 1500, a dizzying seven-and-a-half laps, alum James McCrae and BUCS bronze medallist Tom Keen had both qualified for the final. Bud Baldaro-coached athlete McCrae finished ninth in 3:59.24, but at the sharp end of the race, Tom Keen produced one of the highlights of his young career, a 3:52.40 serving up a silver medal. The result was an outstanding one for the youngest athlete in the field, Keen still just an U20.
The women's field had alumnae Issy Cotham and Kate Seary, as well as Sabrina Sinha, and the triad all qualified for the final, Seary and Sinha doing so in season's bests. The final was fast, and strung out from the gun. At the bell there was a lead pack of six athletes single file, and despite a very fast-finish, Sinha ran out of metres to pass those ahead of her, finishing sixth in 4:23.42, her fastest time since 2016 and the start of a stellar year. Cotham and Seary came across the line in ninth and tenth, the former running a personal best of 4:29.02, as Seary finished a way back in 4:42.04. VIDEO
The final track involvement for BUAC was that of Birmingham Track Elite members Mike Ward and Jonny Davies in the 3000, a straight final. The Luke Gunn-coached pairing were some of the favourites on paper, with Davies' 7:45 PB the class of the field. At the end of the race, so it proved, with Davies leading a talented group of athletes home to secure the gold medal in a time of 8:07.96. 8:10.31 was a season's best for Ward, and chasing down a rapidly fading Jamaine Coleman who had led him by 20 metres at the bell, the Cardiff athlete edged him by two-hundredths of a second to win the bronze medal, the second of the race for BUAC. VIDEO & INTERVIEW
In the field, Akin Coward and Bethan Partridge were alumni competing in the high jump, with current student Laura Zialor fresh from her BUCS gold performance the previous weekend. In the men's competition, Coward jumped 2.05 for ninth in an under par performance. In the women's competition, Zialor also had a tough day at the office, a 1.70 clearance for seventh not doing justice to the talent of the Marshall Milton Keynes athlete. At the top end of the field, Birchfield Harrier Bethan Partridge jumped clear of the field with a 1.87 effort, claiming the gold medal for the Midlands club. VIDEO & INTERVIEW
The men's triple jump featured assistant coach Julian Reid, jumping for Sale Harriers. Finishing just two centimetres ahead of fourth place, 16.08 edged Reid the bronze medal, a strong comeback after not recording a mark at the same championships the year prior.
I was happy with British Champs to come away with the silver, but I was annoyed with myself as I didn’t commit to winning the gold so let that opportunity slip by. The aim of the indoor season was to practice a bit of speed, but to keep the mileage quite high, thus only doing a speed session every other week, allowing myself to mix in and out of cross country and indoors. The speedwork would’ve helped the aim for outdoors to focus on 800 before moving up to the 1500 for the outdoor British Champs. Tom Keen
Full results can be found here.
The British Athletics YouTube playlist can be found here.
The full livestream of Day 2 can be found here.
English U20 Indoors
The English junior championships took place over the same weekend as the British Championships, and there was plenty of BUAC involvement in both track and field.
In the women's 60, Florence Beedie put together a strong pair of performances, running 7.92/7.93 for second in her heat, and seventh in her semi-final, breaking the 8-second barrier for the first time. Jess Smith also made it to the semi-finals, stringing together runs of 7.94 and 7.92 for fifth in her heat and seventh in her semi-final. Not content with one event, she raced in the 60 metre hurdles the next day, coming third in her heat with a 9.10 clocking.
Both Eddie Hunter and Ciaran Yeo made it to the semi-finals of the 400, and both ran their fastest times in the heats, with Hunter recording 51.42 for a season's best, and Yeo 51.18. On the women's side, Jas Clark unfortunately suffered a disqualification in her heat, while Olivia Kimbowa ran 58.93 for third in hers.
There was an athlete apiece in the men's and women's 800, with Harry Fisher's 1:57.55 placing him fourth in his heat, while Catherine Edwards's 2:18.87 was good enough for fifth in hers. The men's 1500 had two BUAC athletes in its straight final, and Dan Maud ran the fastest race of his indoor season for silver, running 3:58.33. Dean Miller-coached Aaron Hunt placed fourth in a season's best 4:03.43.
Luke Okosieme reserved another 2-metre jump, his third of the season, for when it counted, his 2.00 clearance placing him fourth in the men's high jump. Multi-talented Josh Woods went in both the horizontal jumps at the championships, and backed up a season's best of 6.78 for fourth in the long jump with triple jump silver. Pulling out a 14.42 hop, step and jump, the season's best was a confident 24 centimetres ahead of the athlete behind in third. Klaudia Walas was in the women's final, an 11.39 personal best placing her seventh.
Full results can be found here.
Full video coverage can be found on Vinco here.
England Athletics' Day 1 report can be found here.
England Athletics' Day 2 report can be found here.