The University of Birmingham Sport (UBSport) Athletics and Cross Country team continued their great tradition of stunning performances at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Cross Country Championships, picking up two individual golds, two team silver medals and a team bronze.
Over 1,000 athletes travelled to Blackweir Fields, Cardiff on Saturday, February 4, and faced tough conditions throughout the day as the snow fell making the ground difficult to tread on.
However, the competition continued, and the first race of the day saw 318 runners competing for the Men’s A title, with UBSport’s Jonny Hay one of the favourites to take the gold.
Jonny started the race on the front foot, and moved quickly into the leading group of runners, and as the race progressed more runners fell out of touch with the leaders. With around 200m to go it was between just two men as Jonny and Sean Connelly of the University of Manchester headed into the final straight neck and neck.
But Jonny showed his experience and kicked up a gear once more to beat Connelly by just three seconds in a time of 30:02 to grab the gold medal.
There was yet more success that followed, as UBSport’s Dan Cliffe, Niall Fleming and Josh Derecke helped the men’s team take a well-deserved silver medal, finishing just behind St. Mary’s.
Following the race, Johnny spoke to BUCS about his success: ‘My coach had told me to sit on the leader and do the business at the end. I was pushed hard all the way and managed to hold on to finish it off. Conditions were tough so I left it late to warm up so there was less chance of being cold at the start. We are all in the same boat with conditions like this. I don't really mind the cold!’
Next up was the women’s race, with 340 women all competing for the coveted prize, including UBSport’s Hannah Walker.
After a highly competitive race, Hannah led home St Mary’s Louise Small to pick up Birmingham’s second individual gold of the afternoon. Once again, the UBSport side received team silver for their efforts, as both Iona Lake and Pippa Woolvern impressively finished in the top 15 runners.
Speaking to BUCS after the race, Hannah said: ‘I wanted to take it on and lead from the front, it was a tough race with the ground hard and lumpy but it wasn't actually as bad as I thought it might be. This is my second BUCS Cross Country and it is a really great event. It has been a good day for Birmingham.’
The final race of the day saw a dominant St. Mary’s hold the first eight places in the Men’s B race. However, the Birmingham side finished in a highly respectable third, with Finn McNally leading home the UBSport charge.
Following the success of the day, Athletics and Cross Country Head Coach Mike Bull, was delighted with the team’s performance: ‘The team didn’t let the conditions put them off and they didn’t take their eyes off the goal. It was great to see the team get together and a great performance all round.’
‘I’d also like to thank Bud Baldero and his coaching team, who did a fantastic job preparing the team for the challenge.’