With the bumper month of February out of the way, we now come to March, with some strong performances on road and the country.
Unfortunately, March also saw the indefinite postponement of all athletics activity, but to mitigate that we have write-ups from the Trafford 10K, Inter-Counties Cross, and plenty of club events back home in Birmingham as well.
At a race that is often one of the key dates in the road running calendar for club members, a dozen athletes travelled up for the Trafford 10K in search of fast times at the beginning of March.
In the midst of a strong cross season, Ollie Newman found time to race on the roads, finishing 13th in a time of 30:54, his first time under the 31-minute mark. Next athlete home, and also with a shiny new personal best was Max Walk, placing 30th in a time of 31:45, improving over a minute in the three months since he last raced over the distance in Telford.
Recent alum and more importantly, recent grandmaster of BUAC athletics meetings, Callum O’Neill, was four places behind Max for a new best of 32:03. Still an U20 on the roads, Matt Clutterbuck lowered his best to 32:29, a half-minute improvement on his previous 32:59 best set in December the year prior.
Josh Knight made himself a sub-34 10K runner at the first time of asking over the distance, his 33:35 putting him 73rd in a race filled with talent. Tal Pelmont showed strong form to come home in 34:22, squeaking into the top hundred athletes in 94th in his first 10K outing.
Already showing signs of greatness, future president and club man through-and-through George Loxton was just outside the top 100, placing 108th. The parkrun connoisseur improved by over a minute on his showing at the 2019 edition of the race, with 34:40.
Doing more of the same was Hillingdon athlete Mayank Mishra. After a 38:19 at Trafford 2019, the 36:51 in 2020 was just reward after a tough outing at BUCS Cross the previous month.
Tom Cable was the final BUAC athlete home on the men's side, 38:47 a good showing for the athlete more used to racing over the half and full marathon distances.
The women in the race for BUAC all finished between 20th and 30th, with Macclesfield's Louisa Whittingham placing 20th (159th overall) for a PB of 36:46 in her last race on UK soil before taking up a scholarship at George Mason University in the US.
Elisha Tait was next in, and on her debut over the distance, placed 25th (174th overall) in a time of 37:35. The time would have been impressive and a UK top 25 performance in most years, but in the abbreviated road season of 2020, the performance was good enough for UK#3 U20.
Also high on the UK list after her performance was Lizzie Squibbs, UK#10 U20 after the race, the Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete finishing 29th (219th overall). The Hants-based athlete battled adverse conditions to come home as first U20 in a time of 39:30 that belies her outstanding ability as an athlete.
In March I finished off a busy racing period with Trafford 10k and Inter Counties. Trafford was my first 10K, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so was very pleased to dip under 31 minutes. Inter Counties was another good race and my first ever top 10 at a National XC, which capped off an enjoyable winter season. Ollie Newman
Full results can be found here.
Windsor Lakeside Half Marathon
On something of a whim, 2020/21 XC Captain Charlie Davis elected to run a half marathon on March 1st. The Blackheath and Bromley athlete, in stellar form after a 29th place at the National, finished a casual eight minutes ahead of the second placed finisher at Dorney lake, crossing the line in 68:01, which would have placed him well inside the top 100 performances in the UK this year had the course been on roads rather than being multi-terrain.
Full results can be found here.
Big Half Volunteering
While some club members travelled north for Trafford, others took to the streets of the nation's capital to lend a (sometimes giant foam) hand at the Big Half.
Despite the early start for the coach journey down, 18 BUACers made the trip, earning a beautiful grey rain jacket for their troubles, and the privilege of being involved in one of the largest races in the country!
In combination with the Loughborough Cross Challenge, the prestigious Inter-Counties Cross Country took place at Prestwold Hall, providing exciting racing and stacked fields.
For the senior men, an 11.2K course was navigated incredibly well by Charlie Davis, finishing in an outstanding 11th place, ahead of many big names. Recent alum and competition organiser extraordinaire Callum O'Neill placed 110th, while Joe Connors crossed the line 203rd
In the women's race, PhD student Katie Stevens placed 62nd, two places ahead of a familiar face in Emma Houchell, club XC captain in 2018/19. Midland U20 champion Lily Higgins also raced in the senior women's race, 85th in the longest race she attempted all season.
As was often the case in the months prior, the junior men's race was stacked with BUAC talent, and this time it was three athletes in the top ten taking the plaudits, and rightly so. Southern silver medallist Tomer Tarragano could be found in fifth place, running in a Sussex vest after a gold at the championships back in January.
Cambridgeshire teammates and Cambridge and Coleridge clubmates Ollie Newman and Tom Keen finished in seventh and ninth, taking their county to team gold. Newman's performance capped off a meteoric rise, having placed 94th as a top year U17 at the event only two years previously.
Joe Hudson and Ed Blythman were both top 30 finishers, with 20th and 28th, both qualifying after strong County XC performances, Blythman the Bedfordshire champion and Hudson 6th at a stacked Yorkshire champs. Incoming freshers rounded off almost all the involvement for the club, as Joe Blacknell and Dan Schofield finished in 39th and 44th, there was a 52nd for Jack Johnson, 58th for first-year Matt Clutterbuck, and 65th for Essex athlete Zach Bridgeland.
The junior women's race had a familiar name on the podium for BUAC; it was no surprise to see Kate O'Neill finish third, to round off a 2020 cross season without blemish, the lowest finish for the Havering athlete a seventh at the National. AFD athlete Beanie Brown also just made the top 25, in 24th place, four places better than she managed at the National a few weeks prior.
I started March by making my half marathon debut, a decision I’d only made a few weeks prior based off a suggestion from Jeff at the track one night but it was a good one and it was nice to take the win. The next week I was making another debut, this time my first shot at the senior race at the Inter Counties XC. Having not raced at county champs I had to charm the selectors into giving me a wildcard spot. Fortunately they did, as in a season that had already been going well I shocked myself by coming home in 11th. This was a great way to end the season and left me really optimistic for the future. Charlie Davis
Full results can be found here.
Mid-March brought about the key social event of any BUACer's calendar, and to do it justice, here we have words by Sam Allen, 2019/20 Social Secretary.
A year as part of University of Birmingham Athletics Club is such adventure it is never going to be possible to define it in one night. However, I think everyone in BUAC could agree that our Annual Dinner comes pretty close.
As a club, we're a lot more used to spending time together dripping in sweat and mud, than glitz and glamour. That being said, you wouldn’t have been able to tell this at our Annual Dinner, with the whole club making an effort to look their best, weather in dress or tie.
BUAC’s Annual Dinner 2020 was held on the famous Birmingham Canal (Yes, the one featured in Peaky Blinders) at a the stunning venue, The Cube. Upon arrival all guests received champagne and the early exchanges are filled with conversing, complimenting and posing as our athletes take the opportunity to have their photo taken with our official photographer.
As the our three-course meal is served and the evening progresses conversations turn to singing and poses turn to dance moves, as the disco floor fills up with athletes throwing some questionable shapes to accompany our live jazz band.
As the evening comes to a close last year saw the introduction of the inaugural BUAC heads or tails raffle, an extremely an enjoyable event which I’m sure will become a tradition in years to come.
Plates are taken away and tables are cleared. The bars fills up and the dance floor is packed. This is where BUAC comes to each own.
BUAC is an athletics club blessed with hugely talented athletes from a complete range of events. But this talent is not what defines BUAC. BUAC is defined by the final hour of an Annual Dinner.
An atmosphere of laughter, friendship and joy as good times are shared and memories are made. This is what BUAC is about, and this is what our Annual Dinners are remembered for.
Once a part of BUAC, always a part of BUAC.
North vs South Football
Forget BUCS, forget English, British and European Championships. The only event worth being part of BUAC for, in the eyes of almost all who hold an opinion worth listening to, is the annual grudge match of North vs South football, this year with a fixture for both the men and the women. Lest partisanship ruin the coverage, here we hear from man in the middle George Loxton.
In my 5 years experience as a referee, overseeing the last two editions of North vs South has been up there among the highlights. With two games to squeeze into just 2 hours of pitch hire, and after finally moving on the previous pitch users despite their best protests, the action began with the first of hopefully many women's matches in North vs South history. The match was a great success, being played in good spirits throughout, by coaches and athletes alike. The action was a great spectacle, with end to end play. After prolonged periods of second half pressure, led by outstanding performances from Jade Surman and Elisha Tait, the North scored a deserved goal to clinch a narrow 1-0 victory.
The trash talk had begun weeks before the men's match, leaving me in charge of two passionately charged teams. In a game where I was tasked with more player management than technical decisions, play ebbed and flowed as both teams sought out what they could, and couldn't, get away with. Play gently simmered throughout the first half, with both teams putting in crunching tackles, most notably from the North's Jack Hocking (although is Worcester really in the north?) and the South's Charlie Davis.
The Brighton Phoenix tag team of Tom Mackman and Ollie Johnson were ever present in the ear of northern players and myself alike, in the hope of provoking a reaction. As cocky jubilation and frustration set in late on, from the southern and northern sides respectively, tempers flared and proceedings were called to a halt with only 2 minutes remaining. The spectacle ended, with all players injury-free, and a scoreline identical to that in 2019, 3-1 to the South.
The event was to be the last event of sporting intrigue in the country, as the day after, the 16th, saw England Athletics postpone all sporting activity. Subsequently, BUCS Outdoors, Combined Events, and 10K were cancelled, and many club members were left wondering what was to become of the season ahead. For how the club responded, the April, May and June editions will give the picture of a very different summer for a lot of us.