In an event which boasted over 1500 competitors from 104 different institutions – including two Olympians – medals at the BUCS Gatorade Nationals were not easy to come by. Hosted at Jessica Ennis’s training venue in Sheffield, Cardiff Met students showed as much steely determination as they did talent. Although the men’s team were able to crown two individual champions, it was the women’s team who threatened to puncture Loughborough’s bubble most convincingly, eventually being beaten by an agonising ½ point (points are scored in each event for athletes finishing first to eighth).
The three day spectacle of student track and field competition began with an emphatic Friday evening for the Cardiff Met team. With only the short sprints to be decided on the first day there was an opportunity for our 60m specialists to take centre stage. For the women, Mica Moore and Becca Chapman stepped forward. Both won their heat. Both won their semi-final. Both won medals in the final (silver and bronze respectively). To the delight of the increasingly enthusiastic Cardiff Met support in the stands, this swift execution of sprinting skill was not all that was on offer. In the women’s 60m hurdles Lauren O’Reilly and Rosie Kingston breezed through to their final and O’Reilly powered over the barriers to take silver. In the men’s 60m, Cardiff Met were represented by Dewi Hammond and fresher Sam Gordan. With both looking impressive through the rounds the final promised to be highly competitive. Gordan was unable to recover from an uncharacteristic stumble out of the blocks but still took 6th place. Hammond’s lunge for the line – in a race where medals were decided by thousandths of a second – was rewarded with bronze; his first BUCS medal and the team’s fourth for the night. Sprinters, take a bow.
While Saturday was full of action in qualifying rounds, it wasn’t until Sunday that Cardiff Met had the opportunity to accumulate any more crucial medals and points. Although there were some disappointments and absences, where athletes were present, those athletes made their performances count. In the knowledge that the women’s team were producing point scoring performances at every opportunity, it was impossible not to anxiously keep count as the results rolled in. Three points from the women’s captain Lucy Griffiths in the Shot Putt; three points for 800m runner Ffion Price; momentum was building. Sian Swanson heroically leapt to multiple personal bests in the triple jump and, almost immediately after, high jumped into a point scoring 6th place. Then came 60m bronze medallist Becca Chapman, but this time in the Long Jump. A jump of 6.07m to secure a silver medal and the women’s team were now fighting for the championship. For the men, some stand out performances were needed to secure their place in the overall standings. For some, individual pride was at stake too. PGCE student, Stephen Mitchell, was the fastest in the field in the men’s 3000m and ran an impressive front running race to take the title. Soon after, James Thie, MSc student and master race tactician, went into the 1500m final of his last indoor BUCS championships. The 35 year old negotiated his way into a good position before gliding into the lead on the final lap and running to victory to follow up his gold medal in the 3000m from 2013.
With only the 4×200 relay to go both men and women were in second position overall. With the fastest quartet in recent years (Zara George, Becca Chapman, Charlotte Wingfield, Mica Moore), the women lead from the start and went into the last lap in gold medal position. On the last leg Mica Moore, being challenged by a fast finishing Loughborough team, was clipped, knocked off balance and crossed the finish line in second place. To the delight of the team, officials quickly decided to disqualify Loughborough for impeding and awarded the gold to Cardiff Met. A brilliant performance (and university team record), but, crushingly, only enough to bring the women’s team score to 59.5 – Loughborough at 60. With the adrenaline flowing, there was one final opportunity for Cardiff Met’s men to get on the podium. Fortune, it seems, swung against them on this occasion. After a phenomenal lead-off leg in the 4 x 200m relay from Sam Gordan, Jonothan Hornblow took the baton in first place and stormed round one lap of the EIS arena to hand over to Chris Claydon. At the change-over, Hornblow collided with an athlete from East London University who was positioned incorrectly on the inside lane. Both men thumped to the ground, spilling the baton in the process (interested readers can watch a video of the collision online!). Although the gold medal was out of reach, Claydon quickly recovered the baton, completed his lap and handed to Dewi Hammond who closed out the race in third to impressively take the bronze.
Athletes, coaches and team staff were delighted with the success of the team, and with the women’s trophy especially being so close to coming home with the team, all athletes will be going into the outdoor championships hungry for more.
Women Men Loughborough 60 Loughborough 84 Cardiff Met 59.5 Cardiff Met 41 Birmingham 54.5 St Mary’s 35 Brunel 45 Birmingham 31 Cardiff Uni 28 East London 19 Women’s Team Zara George/Becca Chapman/Charlotte Wingfield/Mica Moore (Relay Gold), Mica Moore (60m Silver), Becca Chapman (Long Jump Silver, 60m Bronze), Lauren O’Reilly (60mH Bronze), Sian Swanson, Charlotte Wingfield, Megan Rogers, Ffion Price, Becky Nuttall, Sofie Kent, Emily Brown, Cassidy Skinner, Rosie Kingston, Sara Geary, Elinor Lewis, Lucy Griffiths, Hannah Johnson, Amy De Beaux Men’s Team Steven Mitchel (3000m Gold), James Thie (1500m Gold), Dewi Hammond (60m Bronze), Sam Gordan/Jonothan