Mid Season Review

It’s official. Say goodbye to the mud. Track is back.

After a busy few weeks of various varsity victories, Hyde Park relays and some trips ‘up north’, the outdoor season will start proper with the LUCA Outdoor Open at Battersea this weekend.

As with any changing of the seasons, it is a time to reflect and take stock of the achievements to date.

We had a shaky start with a void race at Parliament Hill despite some excellent displays and debut performances from our new member clubs; UEL, Kent and Surrey.

The second fixture at Wimbledon saw eligible teams also compete for the Bannister Cup (United Hospitals) and University of London XC championships. The increasingly bitter (but friendly?) rivalry between St George’s and Barts ended with victory for St George’s by a single point over Barts. The two medical schools split the honours in the individual UL championships, with Liam Vandamme (Barts) and Grace Leyland (St George’s) receiving gold. The UL team championships were won by King’s (Ladies and Gentlemen) and St Georges (Mixed).

Next to Lee Valley for the Indoor Championships. A record turnout and strong squads from the new clubs made this an intriguing fixture. Some say Indoors is the hardest of all LUCA competitions to win. It was certainly close. King’s were pushed all the way but ended the day one point ahead of Imperial, making it three championship wins in a row, and taking the UL championship in the process too. St George’s kept hold of the UL Shield. The impressive and ancient shield (circa 1867) has only been out of their hands once (RVC) since 2017.

Individually, there were standout performances with five championship records being broken – four by athletes from new clubs.  Stephen Simmons (Kent) registered records in the 60H with 8.34 and jumped 4.20m in the pole vault. Karen Chui Yin Mok (UEA) broke the 60m record with 7.84. St Mary’s Tia-Lilly Crane broke the 800 record with 2:19.69 and UEA broke the 4X200 record with 1:46.94.

Back to XC and the racing headed to Mitcham Common before the season finale at Wormwood Scrubs. The standings were tight, and the occasion was poised for a dramatic race to the finish line.

In the women’s racing, two athletes were on 399 points going into the final race. Evie Warren (Surrey) claimed gold and secured her first LUCA XC title with 599 points, beating Grace Leyland (St George’s) by only two points. Nayana Jain (Barts) was a close third place with 591 points. Squad depth was on show in the team standings where UCL took top place with 2284 points. King’s (2248) were second and Barts (2238) were third.

UCL’s winning ladies.

In the men’s racing, only a single point separated Tom O’Mahoney (St George) and DJ Matthews (RVC). It was a fight to the end with only six seconds between them as O’Mahoney took gold and with it, the championship. Nick Lightfoot (Surrey) finished third in the standings, further demonstrating Surrey’s competitive offering to the league.

The overall team championships, the Mike Baggs Trophy (named after the late long-serving former league secretary) was hotly contested and after three races King’s and UCL could not be split, both having 38 points. League rules state the winner will be the team with the ‘least worst result’, which saw King’s declared champions.

UCL and KCL battle over the Mike Baggs Trophy.

Our XC races are supported by host clubs who provide volunteers to marshal the event and help process results. We are thankful for all the volunteers who put in the effort to make these events successful.

King’s now chase an historic ‘treble’ of Indoors, XC and Outdoor Championships, a feat of which has never been achieved before. King’s took outdoor glory last year, but Imperial and UCL won the years before. Squad depth is key and with new clubs wanting to make their mark, the competition is set to be fierce.

Before the Outdoor Championships is the Outdoor Open. Just shy of 200 athletes will meet in Battersea to push each other on to personal bests. LUCA athletes will compete against students from Warwick, Swansea, Southampton, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Bristol and more. Many will use the opportunity to lay down a marker ahead of BUCS Outdoors and captains will be considering their relay selections.

The season so far has been full of competition, fierce rivalry, friendly cooperation, and outstanding performances. There is no hiding from the fact that LUCA was not in a great place a year ago. The impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis weighed heavily on our finances. But I am delighted to report that strong entry numbers have pushed our events into modest profit and the future is looking very optimistic. Maybe we can even afford a birthday cake to celebrate LUCA’s 10-year birthday next year?


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About James Findon 164 Articles
James is the founder of LUCA.