The University of Birmingham Athletics and Cross Country Club have much to celebrate after picking up nine medals and finishing in third place overall at the BUCS Outdoors Athletics Championships in Bedford.
In a competition featuring over 100 British universities, and several thousand athletes, including European indoor champion Richard Buck, and promising GB international Jess Judd, Birmingham enhanced their reputation for success over the middle and long distance races, clinching both the Men’s 5,000 and 10,000m titles with Jonny Davies and Jonny Hay, along with a silver for Ben Waterman in the the Men’s 800m.
With field event stars such as Caoimhe King and Nick Cruchley having completed their degrees in 2014, there was a welcome gold medal for England Athletics U20 indoor champion Lawrence Davis in the Men’s Triple Jump in his first year at Birmingham.
His best effort came in the form of an opening round PB of 15.50m, which no-one was able to better throughout the remainder of the final. At the other end of the spectrum, Mike Sweeney picked up a bronze medal in the High Jump after seven years of competing in university sport.
But the name on many people’s lips at the end of Day 2 was one of BUAC’s highest achievers in recent years. Jonny Hay took his third consecutive gold at the BUCS Outdoors Championships by winning the 10,000m in a time of 30:43.17. It capped off an excellent university career for the athlete who captained Great Britain at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in China in March.
The latter stages of the race built up a whirl of atmosphere in the stadium, as Hay, team mate Jack Gray and Oxford University student Miles Unterreiner built an unassailable lead and traded places among themselves. Unterreiner made the first move on the back straight with one lap to go, but Hay showed all his quality and experience, kicking for home with a great show of speed to defend the title he won last year. In doing so he completed an impressive track and cross country double in 2015 in his final BUCS tournament.
Jonny Davies might have considered himself unfortunate to have finished a close second behind Hay in the BUCS Cross Country race in Brighton, but after having the gauntlet thrown down to him, he delivered with a performance to match in the 5000m on Day 3.
After that, the stage was set for a thrilling finale to the championships, and in a tightly contested 800m final, Ben Waterman, who picked up two bronze medals last year, upgraded to silver. A similar story of improvement came for Laura Gent, who was fourth in 2014, but went one better in the 2000m steeplechase. Imran Rahman also added to his 60m gold medal from the BUCS indoors Sheffield by running 10.65s – within a tenth of his lifetime best – to win a bronze in the Men’s 100m.
Mother Nature was unkind to those running inside the Bedford International Stadium, with hopeful sunshine repeatedly collapsing into downpours, that made Sunday’s weather conditions on track unenviable.
That cleared up by Monday afternoon, and we were just left with what those in the athletics community sometimes describe as the ‘carnage’, with the four relay races to run.
Birmingham did well in these events with tough competition, following three days of racing. The main reward was a fifth bronze of the championships in the 4x100m for the quartet of Rebecca Williams, Ruth Onyekwe, Bethan Wakefield and Alice Howe.
Credit is deserved to all athletes who finished in BUCS point scoring positions that helped the team to third overall, including Maryse Haynes, Rebecca Murray and our own Guild of Students Vice President of Sport and Nutrition, Molly Browne.
One man deserves a special mention. At the end of the weekend, a tribute from UB Sport’s Head of Athletics Luke Gunn was made to Mike Sweeney, who medalled in the Men’s High Jump after 7 years of BUCS Competition.
By competing in three events and gaining PB’s in the Shot Put and the 110m Hurdles, the PhD student was able to score 11.5 points for the team overall. Gunn, himself a four times UK Steeplechase Champion described multi-eventer Sweeney as ‘a hero…the most passionate guy BUAC has ever had’.
If the support and enthusiasm that BUAC usually bring along to major tournaments is anything to go buy, that is some statement. Sweeney’s efforts across several events are a microcosm of the hard work that Birmingham’s athletes have been putting into the cause for several years, whilst enjoying themselves and coming along to cheer their team mates just days before the summer exam season begins.
He and Jonny Hay are among those that will be sorely missed, but the club has benefited enormously from their dedication. New faces along with recriuts from UBSport’s growing scholarship program will be sure to join the long list of successful UoB alumni in the future.
— BurnFM Sport (@BurnFM_Sport) May 5, 2015
— BurnFM Sport (@BurnFM_Sport) May 5, 2015