Romance and Valentine’s Day. Santa Claus and Christmas. The last weekend of October and the Manchester Relays. Each pair is equally loved and known by Western society, forming the pillar of the establishment which we have seen built through millenniums of human progress. On the 27th October 2018, the time had come to make the four hour round trip to Manchester once more, and two coaches had been hired to ferry BUAC’s merry men and women to the Promised Land. Boys and girls split, despite tears from Tom Dodd and Louisa Whittingham, heartbroken at the thought of spending an entire two hours apart. Harry Halford’s attempt to board the female coach was denied and spirits were high as the trip to the grim North West began.
One of the beauties of Manchester Relays is that being the first race of the year, the BUAC pecking order is relatively unknown, leading to some simply outrageous sweepstake predictions. Third year student Will Bryan decided to go bold and predict 3:42 1500m England international James Gormley to be 5th BUAC on the first leg, proving one of Will's favourite hobbies might just be to light money on fire. Meanwhile the huge influx of freshers were making their presence felt on the girls coach, as Kate Seary’s rendition of the Welsh national anthem on the flute was drowned out by Maddie Mastrolonardo. Maddie refused to put her seat belt on until everyone on the coach could pronounce her surname correctly (including the coach driver). We get it, you went to Milan once. These mind games couldn’t phase the likes of Liv Eskell, whose impeccable 4 mile runs on strava has put her on the verge of a fully funded Nike lifetime contract.
All eyes were on the first leg race, and with a whopping 36 sweepstake entries, it was a chance for Aaron Cooper to lose yet more money on horse racing, and Charlie Davis to tell everyone how much hernia surgery costs. Magner, McGraw, Gormley, Rieley, Carpenter, Lennon, Bryan, Dodd, O’Brien, Allen, Halford and Drabble were the 12 hopefuls looking to make a name for themselves, and the gun marked the start of a fiercely competitive battle. Lots of sharp twists and turns mean it can be hard to establish a rhythm on the 3k course, so a fast start is crucial to ensure you are in touching distance going into the last mile. Accompanying the many BUAC teams were various other universities/clubs including Leeds Beckett, Exeter, Liverpool, Durham and Stockport AC. The stage was set.
In typical classy fashion, James Gormley came home first BUAC and second overall, which is a fantastic starting point for BUCS Cross in February, isn’t that right James? You’re doing BUCS, aren’t you Gormley? Yes, yes you are. Tom Dodd followed behind as his promising start to the season continued after an injury hit first year. There was a short gap to third BUAC, as 2 old rivals were neck and neck with 600m to go, Jethro McGraw and Dan Carpenter. Jethro produced an absolutely lethal kick, probably the quickest he’s ever ran, and it was enough to get within one second of Carps. Hahahaha. Good effort mate, try being faster next time loser. Carps took third with Jethro doing *really well* to get 4th – well done captain! Rieley, Magner, Halford, Bryan, Drabble, Allen, Lennon and O’Brien followed, with all first leg runners putting BUAC in a strong position with 5 legs to go.
No sooner had the guys first leg kicked off when the girls got going a few minutes later. There can be no denying that this is an incredibly exciting time for BUAC female distant running, exemplified perfectly by the quality on display on the first leg. Kate Seary ran outstandingly well, as she was first home for BUAC – a result which her training so richly deserves. The ever consistent Mari Smith wasn’t far behind, while a brilliant Ella Shirley run saw her as third BUAC runner home. I’m sure we’d all agree Ella was a fantastic BUAC captain last year, and she looks to be picking up where she left off after her 5th at BUCS Steeplechase in May. Kate Palfreeman-Watt (who does medicine in case she hadn’t mentioned) and Jess Keene were close by as BUAC packed out the top end of the field. Jess sadly had to drop out of her second leg due to a heel injury, but still a Proffittable day at the office for the Blackheath and Bromley athlete.
As usual it was complete chaos out on the course, with a BUAC runner on every corner as both girls and guys teams launched their assault on top spot. With the girls race being 3 legs compared to six legs for the guys, the conclusion to a hotly contested ladies race would come first. Heroic legs from Yasmin Austridge and Lucy Elms followed Kate Seary, making it yet another dominant female BUAC win at the Manchester Relays. Real credit has to go to captain Emma Houchell, who has the girls firing on all cylinders this year whilst simultaneously putting in a big shift herself.
Sadly, the boys could not match the girl’s impressive feat and came up just short to finish second. The team of Gormley, Laylee, Vincent, Rieley, Dodd and Carps were about 15-20 seconds off a fully fresh Leeds Beckett outfit, although it must be noted that 3 of our runners were on either their second or third leg. Needless to say the result would have been very different if we decided we wanted to win, but the boys continued their recent philosophy that winning just isn’t cool.
There were too many excellent individual performances to highlight them all, but there are certainly some which deserve a shout out, not least of which is Mike Proffitt. A really tough first 18 months in BUAC left some wondering whether injury-stricken Mike would ever sport the famous lion, but the day arrived on Saturday, as he ran an impressive 9:16. Other strong performances included Maisie Grice, Izzy Cotham and triathlete Naomi Baker. Also a big well done to James Vincent, top performing fresher guy and a valued asset to the A team. Hopefully now he’s got over Sturridge’s winner for England against Wales in Euro 2016.
The reality is it would have been very easy to write pages and pages on the 60 athletes that ran on Saturday. There can be no denying there is a quiet buzz around the club at this exciting time of the year, and rightly so. Belief is growing from within that we can really go on to achieve something special this year, and it’s more important than ever to build on this brilliant start. Everyone keep doing their bit, work hard, and on we go to Birmingham/Midland leagues!
Great effort all