With temperatures soaring to a frankly ridiculous 21 degrees in February (still sure about climate change Donald?), and The National over, one could be forgiven for thinking that XC is over for this season. Runners at Wormwood Scrubs tomorrow will find out otherwise, as LUCA runners take to the mud for one last time to decide the series’ victors.
It promises to be a tight one, too; with 4 races done, 2 teams have emerged as contenders but with notoriously fluctuating turnouts at the last race, it could all potentially go down to the wire. The St Mary’s men (3898) hold a 181 point lead over UCL (3717), which seems very close given the near 8000 points they’ve collectively accrued so far. The same fixture last year saw St Mary’s fail to finish a team and score 0 to hand UCL the title, so although they appear to have it in their grasp, a few missing runners could see UCL, or indeed Imperial (3632) nick it on the line.
Meanwhile, as with last year, Imperial’s women head the overall standings, with a 122 point cushion over UCL. Impressively, their B team are currently lying 3rd, but only have a slender 22 point margin over Reading in 4th. Again, a swing of only a few points either way could see teams on the move.
Imperial’s women have been spearheaded this season by the duo of Katie Olding and Georgia Curry, who having won 3 of the 4 races between them and with a lowest finish of 3rd, are remarkably both tied on 595 points. With 3rd placed Angharad Flower of UCL on 565, it surely boils down to a straight race between the 2 Imperial runners for the overall title, which gives an added dynamic to the team race. However, given the league’s rules of the best 4 races out of 5 counting, a strong run from anyone who’s only done 3 so far could see them catapult up the standings.
The mens’ race looks to be slightly more simplistic. Thomas Butler of St Mary’s has won 2 races so far to give himself 793 points, leading Reading’s James Lyne by a margin of 25. Again, there is huge potential for a change – several athletes have only done 3 races but could seal themselves 2nd or 3rd here with a good run, including last year’s overall winner Paddy Roddy and Niki Faulkner, who has 2nd, 5th and 3rd so far.
The extra team competition introduced this year is the Mike Baggs Trophy, which honours the former league secretary. In this, scores from universities’ mens and women’s teams are combined to give an overall score. This is topped by Imperial with 55 points, but again not far off UCL in 2nd with 52, and the omnipresent St Mary’s in 3rd with 47.
So if you’ve been pining for the road and track, we can at least offer you a vaguely similar experience tomorrow – the course is arguably the flattest of the series and with weather to match, you could almost be on the tartan. Just don’t forget the suncream. See you there!