At the turn of the month, teams from all four corners of the UK descended on the vibrant seaside town of Brighton to battle it out over a challenging course in Stanmer Park for the national student individual and team titles, with no less than 11 commonwealth athletes present, as well as multiple GB capped athletes.
The Men’s A race was the first race off at Midday. After the serious headache and debate as to who would represent the Haries A team in the days prior to the race, plus a late drop out from Max Ralston, the team chosen for the race were Michael Crawley, Kyle McLellan, Ben Stevenson, Scott Stirling, Jacob Adkin and Andrew Lawler.
With the first four runners counting towards the team prize, the Haries combined score of 168, the best team score since 2006, earned a deserved eighth place overall just behind Imperial College London, and finished as the top Scottish university by 57 points. Highlights included a lofty 11th place from Crawley, and a top 50 finish from McLellan.
The Women’s A race followed and despite the unfortunate pull-out from European U-23 Cross Country champion Rhona Auckland, the women’s team was still extremely strong with the likes of Scottish Universities Champion Louise Mercer, in-form Mhairi MacLennan, Stephanie Pennycook and captain Georgia Tindley all racing for the club.
All four dug in well with the leading group including regular Team GB team members Emelia Gorecka and Jessica Judd.
As the race progressed, the lead group inevitably began to splinter, and our girls were dropped by the race leaders. However, the girls continued to run strongly through to the finish, maintaining their high positions in the pack. MacLennan was the first Harie home, taking 16th place a mere 40 seconds behind Judd, while also finishing as the first Scot home.
Pennycook and Mercer were next to finish in what was a tight contest between the two team-mates with Pennycook coming out on top in 20th and Mercer finishing just behind in 21st.
Tindley was next home in 30th. Overall the women’s team scored a very low 57 points, equal to that of Loughborough.
However, thanks to the last ditch effort by Tindley to overtake and push the 3rd Loughborough finisher down a place, our women’s team took home a BUCS bronze, the only team outside of the traditional top three (St. Mary’s, Birmingham and Loughborough) to a win a team medal this year.
Over to the Men’s B race, which although 4km shorter, was made more difficult by the now shredded up and muddy course. In typical B race fashion, there was chanting on the start line and a ridiculous number of ‘banter starts’ at the gun.
However, the race very quickly turned into quite a serious affair, with a pack of a dozen or so St. Mary’s boys leading the charge, trying to make up for the disappointment of losing out to Birmingham earlier in the day.
James Dunn led the Harie charge, finishing 25th overall. Orienteer Mark Purkis was the second finisher in 63rd place, and looked in good shape for the Orienteering BUCS in three weeks’ time.
James Thomas soon followed in 80th place, with Iwan Smith completing the team in 120th position.
The men’s team were 18th in this one, just ahead of Birmingham’s B team. It was a fantastic performance from the club, proving you don’t need to be sponsored athletes to really mix it with the elite of the country.