Updated: Feb 3, 2021
While we tuck in to Turkey with all the trimmings, and mourn (or secretly celebrate) not being able to get out for a Christmas Day parkrun, it's as good a time as any to look back on the year just gone.
While not necessarily as well-seated in the vernacular as the 12 Days of Christmas, the 12 Months of BUAC promises to be a thrilling look back at the previous year, with insight from athletes and coaches alike, and a new month covered every day for the next 12 days.
The 5th of January brought a slew of races in the form of County Cross Country Championships, races for fans of both alliteration and fast yet muddy running. With BUACers past and present in the Senior and U20 ranks, medals abounded, with 10 top three finishes, and plenty more top 10 placings, with vests for Inter-Counties secured by those finishing in the top 8.
Essex U20 Kate O'Neill 1st
Lancashire U20 Sophie Rotheram 1st
Yorkshire Andy Heyes 1st
Staffordshire U20 Bethany Walker 2nd
Warwickshire U20 Max Walk 2nd
Cambridgeshire U20 Imogen Woodard 3rd
Surrey Niamh Brown 3rd
Worcestershire Lily Higgins 3rd
Having had a good block of training over Christmas, the Warwickshire and Midland Championships in January were to serve as warm-ups for my main target races (BUCS and National XC) later on in the cross season. It being the first race of the new year (and still feeling the effects of NYE, having stayed up late writing New Year’s resolutions, of course) I crossed the line to claim a silver medal on a hilly-as-ever Warley Woods course. I came back much stronger a few weeks later at the Midland Champs in Loughborough, after getting a boost from returning to training with the group in the new term. I surprised myself to come 5th in what was the first of some strong performances in the second half of the winter, including coming 18th at the National a month later. Max Walk
Birmingham/Midland League XC Round 3 (BUCS XC Trial)
It was no surprise to see a large BUAC contingent out at the third round of the Birmingham/Midlands League Cross Country leagues, which doubled up as trials for BUCS XC, with 17 men and 9 women out on the turf.
Fielding two full teams of six for the second fixture in a row, the BUAC boys were led home by Andy Heyes, James Gormley, Charlie Davis, and Mike Ward, packing the top 10 in 2nd, 5th, 7th and 9th respectively.
The women packed equally well, with three athletes inside the top 5. Niamh Brown won the race by two seconds from a very strong Hayley Carruthers, and Kate Palfreeman-Watt and Sabrina Sinha followed her home in 4th and 5th, with Kate the first junior home as part of her astonishingly good season on the country. Maisie Grice followed the trio home in 11th.
In the team competition, the men's A squad finished a close second behind Birchfield, with the B team third behind Birchfield and Loughborough, an even more impressive result when you consider the three additional athletes who would have scored for BUAC had they not been running in the colours of their home clubs.
Men's results can be found here.
Women's results can be found here.
Stirling Cross Challenge
While some stayed local, a group of current/future BUACers travelled north of the border for the Stirling Cross Challenge, competing in the U20 age group over a 7K course.
2018 European U18 3000 Champion Tom Keen took the victory in the Scottish mud, with Cambridge & Coleridge and BUAC clubmate Ollie Newman finishing fifth, a position behind incoming fresher Tomer Tarragano. Welshmen Morgan James and Ben Thomas were also involved as part of the Welsh team for the Home Countries International, placing 22nd and 26th respectively.
As part of the Midlands team also entered, three athletes raced in three different categories. Dan Kimber was 45th in the U20 men, as Bethany Walker led the Midlands team home in 29th in the women's equivalent. Lily Higgins, despite still being an U20, raced the senior race for the Midlands, finishing in 56th place.
Full results can be found here.
Vinco coverage of the race can be found here.
Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, Elgoibar, Spain
Looking at the weather in Birmingham in January is enough to make anyone want to flee for warmer climes, and Kate O'Neill did just that, racing for the English Cross Country Association in Elgoibar, Spain, in their prestigious cross country event.
Competing in the U20 race, Kate's second race of the year after her Essex Championships victory had her in good form, and in a field featuring some strong home talent, she finished the 4.5K in just under 17 minutes for fourth place.
Full results can be found here.
Power of 10 results can be found here.
The ECCA article for the event can be found here.
Northern Cross Country Championships
Andy Heyes finished sixth in a Northern Championships race that was won by eventual English Champion Calum Johnson, the weekend before BUCS XC.
The U20 race for the men had a tightly-packed BUAC pairing within the field, as Harry Dexter, running for home club Vale Royal, was followed home by Border Harrier Ollie Dustin, finishing 19th and 20th. Matt Fazakerly of Preston was closely behind in 22nd, the incoming fresher stringing two good results together after a 4th place in the Lancashire County Schools Championships the weekend prior.
The women's junior race was even more strongly packed, with three club athletes in the top 10. Kate Palfreeman-Watt led the trio home in third, with Sophie Rotheram in sixth, and Elisha Tait in eighth. Kate's Hallamshire clubmate and incoming fresher Laura Trask was good value for a thirteenth place on the day, with Lucy Thornton producing a strong performance to come 16th. Rounding out the BUAC involvement was Alyssa Davey in 22nd.
"My first race in January was a Midland League that doubled as the BUCS trial. It was the first race after Christmas, and I wasn’t happy with it, but I think it worked as a tough training session. Two weeks later I ran at Northerns and finished 8th, which was my best ever finish, and I think one of my best races. The other BUAC girls running well made it a really good day. That race definitely gave me a confidence boost before BUCS" Elisha Tait
Midlands Cross Country Championships
One of BUAC's two regional champions on the day, Lily Higgins carried the daring yellow and puple colour combination of her Halesowen vest over the line first in the women's U20 race. Two Beths, Sykes and Walker, made it into the top 10, with a fifth and ninth apiece. Caitlin O'Connor was the final BUAC athlete home in 19th.
In the men's equivalent, Birchfield Harrier Max Walk and incoming fresher Ethan O'Shea finished fifth and sixth respectively, the former backing up his strong performance for silver at the Warwickshire championships earlier in the year.
In the men's senior race, Aedan O'Brien was 40th in a strong field that featured GB triathlete Ben Dijkstra second behind winner Omar Ahmed.
Southern Cross Country Championships
After a strong showing in an England vest at Stirling earlier in the month, the BUAC contingent in the U20 race was led home by Tomer Tarragano, losing out on the gold by less than a second. British junior steeplechase international Kristian Imroth put his black and white Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers vest into 10th, with the quintet of fellow incoming freshers Ed Blythman, Zach Bridgeland, Joe Blacknell, Dan Schofield, and Brett Rushman flooding the field in 16th, 17th, 20th, 21st and 24th.
The women's junior race was highly successful for BUAC, with four current athletes inside the top 15. It was a prestigious one-two from the dynamic duo of Amelia Quirk and Kate O'Neill, as blue and yellow proved to be the winning colours for the Bracknell and Havering athletes, who both took silverware home to their respective sides of the M25. Four Surrey-based athletes came next, with AFD's Maisie Grice in tenth closely followed by Elsa Palmer of Dorking & Mole Valley in 13th. Another pair of incoming freshers also made it into the top 50, with Maisie's AFD clubmate Beanie Brown in 17th, and Woking's Katie Hopkins in 30th.
In the women's seniors, Dean Miller-coached athlete Katie Stevens was 34th, third AFD athlete home.
I had a positive start to the year with a win at county champs, which was good preparation for my race in Elgoibar. I was excited to get the opportunity to race in Spain and the winter training conditioned me to finish 4th but left me eager to race again at Southerns. I was thrilled with my silver placing at Parliament Hill, knowing the hard work was paying off, and giving me some confidence for the rest of the season. Kate O'Neill
Full Northern results can be found here.
Full Midlands results can be found here.
Full Southern results can be found here.
AW writeup for the three championships can be found here.
Videos of all races can be found here courtesy of Mark Hookway.
Track captains Issy Boffey and Jack Hocking led a strong contingent up north to the EIS in Sheffield towards the end of the month. Competing against other universities from the northern half of England, a strong team of 30 made the trip up and came away with victory by a solitary point.
Plenty of athletes were willing to help the team out, with Jake Burkey's first high jump for three years garnering a respectable 1.90, while Ellie Ravenscroft stepped up in distance to post a credible 2:13.57 in the 800.
While the day was a season opener for most, there were plenty of PBs to be found as well, as Emma Bakare put the shot 12.74, and the dynamic pairing of Luke Okosieme and Danny Lamb found new bests of 5.29 and 6.78 respectively in the long jump.
The Martin Owens-trained relay teams were a credit to the club as well, with two men's 4x200 squads fielded, finishing 2nd and 6th. The women's squad, aided by some rapid running from Hannah Jones, finished well ahead of the chasing pack for the victory.
Full results can be found here.