Being myself the son of a traditional Jamaican matriarch I was raised in a Bible loving household, with the verses of Revelations and Psalms reverberating around my prepubertal temples every Sunday morning from the age of five. Now a grown man or at least almost (beard pending), my thoughts normally turn more towards those concerning chemical engineering problems or sporting related events.
My thoughts however returned to such religious epitomes and prophecies as I witnessed first-hand a miracle of God himself as the University of Birmingham Track and Field Indoor team scrapped, fought and hustled against the best competition this nation has to offer to come overall second in the British University Indoor Athletics Championships 2019.
The Lord said unto Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of animal, a male and its mate…”. It is said that God gave Luke Gunn one more to battle the flood of the impending BUCS Championships as he assembled one of the best teams this University has ever seen against all the odds with injuries and grand prix call ups alike to gain a total of eight medals from our very own righteous students.
The first day of competition saw Jake Porter take to the waves with a close Bronze in the 60mH amongst a strong field. Other performances involved Alice Linekar coming back strong from injury to race alongside fellow multi eventer Alina Bohm, Hannah Jones and Yvette Westwood contesting hard for finals spots in the 60m but falling narrowly short, Freddie Owsley running a stellar 45m and Alex Parkinson surviving a promiscuous false start in his heat to contest for a semi final spot. The voyage was underway.
Day Two was the day of qualifying, with no finals it was a day of executing the perfect race, jump or throw whilst conserving enough energy for the main event later in the weekend. Suspense grew as the winds quickened over the oceans once calm waters as twenty-five of BUAC’s finest donned the vibrant red to contest for finals spots.
Performances of note include Issy Boffey attempting a championship best performance in her semi-final to run 2.06, whilst Jack Hocking clocked the quickest qualifying time in the men’s 400m with a performance of 48.9s. Maisie Grice also ran superbly and was unfortunate not to progress through to final. Rory the Lion made an appearance in the mascot race also, resulting in a particularly wet Joe Watkins bought back from overboard gasping for air and wet through.
The men’s 4x200m relay team reduced by injury and individual commitments stepped up to the plate with some incredible split times from runners who don’t specialise in the discipline, whilst the woman’s team secured their spot and a good lane for the final.
It is said a white dove landed on the Ark or in today’s tongue Audi of Luke on the morning of the third day as news of land fell on expecting and inquisitive ears whilst the flood waters raged all around. The dove bore not a branch but made a single tweet “A fantastic run from @MariSMith141 at the “Muller Indoor GP Bham has seen her gain the standard required for @Glasgow2019 selection”.
This act inspired the team, motivated them further, drove them to performances seldom seen in an athlete’s career as for the third and final time for this year the gold and red of Birmingham was seen on the indoor lanes of Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.
Laura Zialor set the tone in the field with a close 4th in the Woman’s Triple Jump followed by Jake Burkey pumped by a personal best performance the day before to contest in the men’s long jump final.
On the track Jack Hocking then raised the crowd from their seats as if it were a Punchlines audience itself screaming “PLEASE NO ENCORE,” as he galloped round the last bend to take Silver in the men’s 400m final. Whilst in the woman’s race Ellie Ravenscroft a normally so sweet and loving woman, spread fear into even my heart as I saw the grimace on her face whilst sprinting for the line as she swooped down upon the woman’s 400m final to snatch a Bronze position and place on the podium.
Jack Hocking ship mate and engineering compatriot James Gormley then took to the track to take Gold in the men’s 3000m in glorious style with clear daylight between himself and the rest of the field. It was as if land was on the horizon, peering forth over the towering waves breaking against the bow of the ark as we all thought “could we do this?”.
Kate Seary and Vic Weir of the Bud Buldaro vanguard then took up their ores and began rowing hard for 15 long laps as they dug deep under the chorus of Bud’s call and worked to the reel in the lead runner in the woman’s 3000m. Stalwart efforts from both saw them come home with a silver and bronze between them, a courageous effort.
Issy Boffey who needs no introduction then cantered round in an effortless manor as a bearded Noah shouted relax, relax at the top bend caressing his team towards the horizon of victory. The time on the clock stopped at 2.06, as the championship best performance held for yet another year, but the Gold medal was achieved none the less.
In the 1500m Emily Thompson inspired by her training partner, friend and fellow first year then gritted her teeth against the growing anguish with every stride to pull away against a strong field and stake her claim as an exemplary athlete with a Gold medal. Never more deserved, never in doubt, the scent of land descended.
Jethro McGraw last year’s Bronze medallist fresh from campaign on the fields of Exeter at the BUCS cross country then returned to the indoor lanes with the weekend his season opener in the men’s 1500m. He carried himself with the dignity and courage that is expected of the Cross-Country Captain, followed closely by Joe Tuffin as he took the race on and was in medal contention for 1499m of the race but was dipped on the line for a 4th place finish.
Land previously appearing so close then seemed but a distant hope. As the ark pressed onwards disaster struck in the woman’s 4x200m relay, the final event of the day. Baton dropped, ores broken and athletes down lesser Women would have given up there and then with no judgement or disgrace received. But these were woman of Birmingham, of Luke Gunn’s Ark. With not a moments hesitation the race was back on as the team clawed their way back with every passing lap to take an unbelievable fourth place in the 4x200m final. Inspiring words from their leader and relay specialist Martin Owens having the desired effect no doubt they saved the day and Birmingham reached land, good earth and soil with the team silver.
Great respect must go to the winners Loughborough, who stake their African Violet flag on the land of victory. But one can surely prophecise in the near future a Birmingham team equally as inspired and invigorated ready to fight for the overall win. With tools such as the new campus track, world class sports centre and a coaching team as enthusiastic and passionate as the one we are so lucky to have we will surely live up to this expectation.
Thank you again to all who made the weekend happen and so enjoyable, one could write a tome four times this length if including all achievements and performances. I hope this has been an enjoyable read as ever, all the best from myself as we look now to outdoors.
Over and out