An annual fixture in the early cross country season is the RAF vs Eastern Counties vs CUH&H competition, with both our opponents having a large pool of athletes to draw on and this being the last race before varsity selection there was a slightly more serious atmosphere than cuppers. The conditions were also more serious, a strong wind and some long exposed sections meant that race tactics would play a large part in the race and that the tent was filled with a huddle of athletes trying to keep warm before the race.
At 1pm everyone ventured out of shelter and the women’s race got underway. It was soon obvious that Cambridge domination would be the theme of the race, with a sea of light blue vests making it to the top of the first hill and little response form RAF and Eastern Counties. As is becoming a theme fresher Phoebe Barker showed her strength and good form by employing the simple tactic of running faster than everyone else and came home with a convincing victory in 20.21 over the 5.7km course. She was closely followed by Lauren Major and then Emily Sundquist in 21.02 and 21.16 respectively. The rest of the women’s team then packed into the finishing shoot, making up 9 of the top 10. A mention must also be made of Becca Frake powering on through a nosebleed to finish a respectable 8th. With 4 to score in the team competition our women’s captain Niamh rounded off our scoring team in 4th place with a sensible run after some time out. A total score of 10 for CUH&H put us in the lead, with RAF second with 53 points and Eastern close behind with 54.
With ominous clouds building the men’s race kicked off at two sharp (to the disadvantage of Noel Loo who hadn’t yet made an appearance at the start line). Again there was signs of CUH&H’s strength early on, with both Ollie Fox and George Gathercole having a strong lead at the top of the first lap, and despite the conditions continued on their own to finish 1st and 2nd with times of 35.35 and 36.16 over the 11.3km undulating course. The two Harey runners were followed in by the familiar face of Josh Carr (alumni, vice-president and one of life’s winners), producing the same front three as a week earlier at cuppers. Further back in the pack tactics came more into play, with groups forming through the first lap to help shield the wind. On the final lap these duly disintegrated when the worst of the headwind was done and runners made a final kick for the finish line. The men’s team race was more hotly contested with the top ten being made up of a smattering of eastern counties vest and one runner in the eggshell blue of the RAF team amongst the Cambridge runners, however the final result for the 6 to score team shows our continued strength with a convincing victory with 31 points compared to 61 and 143 for Eastern Counties and RAF respectively. The scoring team was an experienced group of Ollie Fox, George Gathercole, Mac Cox, Chillip Prout, Paul Aste and Will Ryle-Hodges.
The race was followed by conditions to test anyone’s enthusiasm for a cool-down, with winds gusting and persistent sleet taking a horizontal trajectory the course was soon abandoned in favour of the post race buffet put on by the RAF hosts.
Well done to everyone that raced, the conditions were far from perfect and there was a lot of strong performances. Next up is the Varsity selection race at the Met league meet at Welwyn Garden City, looking forward to seeing you all there.