event::busa championships


This year’s BUSA event was staged superbly by the University of Warwick with able assistance from local club Octavian Droobers. The individual event was held on Bentley Woods, the venue of the British Night Championships from 2000, which was described by some as being “an area you’d love to train on, but racing on it was sheer torture”. Some very steep sided streams ran through the area, which was a mixture of very fast mature woodland and younger plantation with low visibility, all on some deceptively hilly land. The terrain allowed for very fast running, but this meant that runners were going out hard from the beginning and those who were not on top form found the going pretty tough near the end of the courses, particularly in the heat of the very welcome (for spectators) sun. With a block of seeded runners setting off at the end of each course there was a growing crowd at the finish as athletes waited to see how fast the elite students would go, and also to cheer in team mates from a number of different universities.

The women’s A race was contested over 7.7km, and it was Leeds Met student Aislinn Austin who improved on her top 3 position from 2003 to claim the top spot, with the leading fresher, Cerys Manning, in 2nd place for Oxford. Rachael Elder (Sheffield) completed the top 3. The men’s A race was run over a 10.8km course and it was a return to winning ways for Oli Johnson, who last won in 2002, beating team-mate and reigning BUSA champion Matt Crane by 30 seconds. Scott Fraser (Edinburgh) joined them in the top 3, an impressive performance considering Soctt lost his map negotiating one of the steep-sided streams and instead of returning to collect it and losing valuable time, decided to continue with his run as he was running in a group with Johnson and the very able Swedish runner Stefan Andersson (Napier University).

After the prizegiving, including awards for best fancy dress (a ‘Heaven and Hell’ theme had been set for the party) which went to Oli Johnson and Lucy Jepson for some lovely attire, which was held in a hired out room of the Student Union the evening’s entertainment ensued, including a lively Snatch-orientated set from members of nopesport.com much to the delights of the crowd.

Accommodation was on campus, also the venue of the relay which gave people a welcome lie-in in the knowledge that a lengthy drive was not needed to get to the race site. Some people may think that a competition around a university campus may not be that difficult, but when running at speed and under pressure it can become a whole lot harder, as many runners found out.
Spectator friendly courses had been planned, with runners passing the assembly area twice before coming in to finish, which made the process of following the progress of the race very easy indeed.

On the first leg of the men’s relay it was SHUOC’s 1st and 2nd teams (Andy Middleditch and Rob Little) who came through in the lead at the first spectator control, followed very closely by Edinburgh’s 1st and 2nd teams (Mark Nixon and Mark Saunders) who were being chased by Warwick’s 2nd team, obviously gaining from the home-advantage. Nothing separated the top 4 teams as they came back through for the second time, though Warwick had been dropped, but by the time the teams came into sight just before the final control it was obvious that Middleditch had put the pedal to the metal as he had a 30 second lead over Sheffield’s 2nd team, with Edinburgh 1 and 2 chasing down the leaders. With SHUOC having the Gold and Silver medallists from the Individual race going out on their last 2 legs it was always going to be difficult to catch them. Despite the best efforts of Edinburgh’s 1st team with Oleg Chepelin having caught time on Johnson by the first spectator control, there was no catching the Sheffield team with Johnson pulling further ahead over the rest of the course. Matt Crane started out on last leg with a 3 minute margin (over Murray Strain for EUOC 1st team) and set the 2nd fastest time of the day to see the men’s relay go back to Sheffield. But then it was time to see who had succumbed to the pressure and not been checking their codes as all courses had been gaffled to prevent following! Strain, in the haste of trying to catch SHUOC, had not checked his codes and was disqualified (unfortunately making it 2 disqualifications in 2 days). This meant that 2nd place also went to Sheffield with a team consisting of Little, James Hargreaves and Neil Northrop. The next 2 teams to finish were Edinburgh’s 2nd team and Warwick, Graham Gristwood having caught up a huge amount on James Tullie (and setting the fastest time of the day by over a minute and a half in doing so). Tullie just held on in a fantastic sprint finish, although this would not have mattered as Warwick’s 2nd leg had also been disqualified. Unfortunately, in the pressure of making it to the finish first (neither runner knew that Warwick weren’t competitive any more) Tullie punched too quickly at the last control and there was no record of him having visitied the control – unfortunately as is now stated in the rules it is the competitor’s responsibility to ensure that a punch has been recorded, even if a hundred people have seen them punch. So that was 5 teams in, and only 2 had actually completed the course, so who would get the bronze medal? Ed Catmur of Oxford was next in, but as with many other people, he too had mispunched. So it was finally down to the next team to finish which was Sheffield’s 3rd team, and finally we had a 3rd placed team – and also a completely SHUOC podium, possibly the first time that one university has had all 3 top places in the relay.

The women’s relay ran a lot more smoothly than the men’s with all leading teams keeping cool heads (or rather just actually checking their codes!) Hazel Tant of SHUOC was leading at the first spectator control just in front of a large group of runners including Edinburgh, Sheffield’s 2nd team and Oxford. Tant held her lead through the 2nd spectator control, but by the time the leaders came back into view of the final control, it was Edinburgh’s Kirsten Strain who emerged in front, closely hounded by Helen Gardner who was running in a non-competitive Edinburgh team, with Sheffield’s 2nd team close behind (Martha Taylor), whilst a further minute back was Tant and Oxford’s Katherine Asker. With the teams having been split up a little bit after the 1st leg it was possible for 2nd leg runners to concentrate on their own race, and none excelled more in this environment than Oxford’s Becky Carlyle who set the fastest time of the day and pulled her team up to 1st place and also with a comfortable margin over 2nd place. This set the silver medallist from the individual, Cerys Manning, off in the lead, and she kept this advantage until the end ensuring that the competition was not just a battle between the pre-event favourites Edinburgh and Sheffield, and many impartial spectators were glad to see them win the race. As for 2nd place, this went to Sheffield, who beat Edinburgh to silver spot by 3 minutes (who gave their Scottish team-mates a scare after it was discovered that last leg runner Alison O’Neil hadn’t cleared her emit brick which could have meant a disqualification, but luckily the computer team were able to sort this problem out and the team were ensured of a podium place).

Everyone headed to the sports pavilion for the prize-giving, but were also glad to tuck into jacket potatoes which were being sold there. A very swift prize-giving for the relay was held, where top 3 teams in each relay were awarded, before the overall university winner was announced, and it was no surprise to hear that SHUOC had won this year’s BUSA Championships, with Edinburgh 2nd and Oxford 3rd.
Many thanks to UWOC and OD for a fantastic event.


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