Two weeks out from the 150th Anniversary Varsity Match at Iffley Road, Oxford University Athletics Club (OUAC) travel to Bedford this weekend for the BUCS Athletics Championships. Dan Hooker previews our team, who are determined to show Cambridge, and the rest of the country, their mettle.
Leading the charge will be Javelin thrower Aidan Reynolds, who goes into the event 4th in the National Rankings at this early stage of the season.
While targeting a first BUCS medal, Aidan will also be chasing the Welsh Commonwealth Games qualifying standard of 70 metres. Which he came within a metre and a half of last weekend at Loughborough.
Also hoping for international honours this season is fresher Rowan May. 4th in the Pole Vault at the European Juniors last summer, he hopes to step up to the global stage at this year’s World Junior Championships in Oregon.
To do so he will need to clear at least 5.20m – a 10 cm improvement on the Oxford record he set at the National Indoor Junior Championships in March. Ranked 4th on Personal Best coming into the competition, he will hope that a place on the podium comes with a plane ticket attached later this summer.
But if the men’s team are to improve on their 10th place finish last year they will need more than just their international stars on form.
The Men’s 4×400 team (Adam McBraida, George Gundle, Craig Morten and Ralph Eliot) fresh off crossing the Atlantic to compete at the prestigious Penn Relays last Friday, will look to defend and even improve upon the bronze medals they won last year while also hoping to progress to the finals of their individual events. Despite stiffer competition it would be no surprise to see the Dark Blues back on the podium again after the last event of the championships.
An outside contender for the medals is Triple Jumper Sam Trigg, 6th at the Indoor event back in February, who demonstrated that he is in excellent form by opening his outdoor campaign with a personal best on Easter Monday. Sunday’s final may also provide a Varsity preview, one of his main rivals for the rostrum being from Cambridge!
Other likely Oxford finalists include Steeplechaser Alex Howard, ranked 4th Junior in the country over 2000m but stepping up to the senior 3k distance for the first time, Discus thrower James Heywood and 800 metre runner Tom Frith.
The Women’s team will also be determined to demonstrate their credentials ahead of the big day on the 17th May. Their star name is distance runner Emily Moss. 5th Indoors over 1500m, Moss will be going over the 2000m Steeplechase on Monday looking to add a BUCS medal in Dark Blue to the two she won during her London days.
An area of real strength for the Oxford women is the throws, with new university Discus record holder Christina Nick looking to follow making the Shot final at the Indoor event with a repeat performance in both her favoured events over the Bank Holiday Weekend.
Hammer thrower Jenny Richards will be looking to follow up a string of recent personal bests with another strong performance. The Oxford record is now only a metre away and a Blues place seems assured for Richards, who broke the 2nd team record in last year’s Varsity Match.
Javelin throwers Dakota McCoy and Charlotte Warwick will also be targeting places in the final, which would be a strong statement of their intent to continue Oxford’s domination of an event they have won for the last 6 Varsity Matches.
The Women’s distance team has a decidedly trans-Atlantic flavour about it with American Katherine Niehaus entered for the 5000 metres, and Canadian Sarah McCuaig in the 1500 metres. If Niehaus can re-discover her Stanford form she could bring in a strong haul of points, while McCuaig will also fancy her chances of making it through two rounds to Monday’s final.
This is the strongest team that Oxford have sent to a BUCS Championship for many years.
Follow their progress throughout the weekend on Twitter @OxfordAthletics and make a note of the date: 17th May #VM150
Watch BUCS Athletics Online!
If you can’t get down to watch the action in Bedford, you can watch the VincoSport live stream on your phone, laptop, games-console, SmartTV or tablet!
The Live Stream will take place throughout the duration of the three-day competition with action being shown from both the track and the field events, followed by the uploads of HD highlights and interviews
Preview: With thanks to Dan Hooker
Photo / Matt Henderson