Birmingham athletes dominate at Temple Newsam, Kitty Shepherd-Cross reports, with Will Barnicoat and Amelia Quirk taking long-course victories as Charlotte Alexander and Jack Small win short-course races

Despite over 70 universities competing, the BUCS Cross Country Championships has recently developed into a tug of war between the midland titans of Loughborough and Birmingham University. Last year’s BUCS event saw the ‘African Violets’ dominate with six individual and team medals. This Saturday (Feb 3) in Leeds, however, Birmingham made sure to upend Loughborough’s ability to walk on water, as they reclaimed the medal haul.

Charlotte Alexander provided Birmingham’s first triumph, taking a decisive gold in the women’s B race. She showcased an inspiring comeback from injury after returning to running just three months ago. She was ‘’ecstatic to have won’’, providing a fairy tale end to her BUCS cross-country career, as she leaves Birmingham this summer to start a job in biotechnology.

Charlotte Alexander leads Rosie Hamilton-James (BUCS)

Shortly afterwards, Birmingham’s Amelia Quirk soared to victory in the women’s A race. Quirk described it as “a long time coming”, having been second last year. This is Quirk’s first BUCS gold, following a flurry of BUCS silver and bronze medals.

Amelia Quirk leads Phoebe Barker (BUCS)

It wasn’t however until the final event of the day that Birmingham’s true ascendence came. The men’s A race saw Birmingham’s unstoppable Will Barnicoat take gold. The double European cross-country champion seemed to triumph with relative ease.

No doubt his nickname ‘Will Barnigoat’ is catching on after this latest addition to his trophy cabinet. Following his footsteps, team-mates Tomer Tarragano and Oliver Smart stormed to silver and bronze – making it… BRUM BRUM BRUM at BUCS 2024!

Will Barnicoat (BUCS)

The only individual gold left went to Loughborough’s Jack Small in the men’s B race. Small’s celebrations were anything but small because upon finishing he poured a litre of milk over his head. He tells us his coach, Chris McGeorge, inspired him as the former 800m international had won the BUCS cross-country B race in 1983.

Jack Small (BUCS)

Although their overall crown was taken, Loughborough’s women’s A team defended their spot as an endurance running powerhouse. India Barwell, Beth Morley and Tia Wilson all continued their season of exceptional performances to take home a team gold.

Other notable performances include Phoebe Barker’s silver in the women’s A race. Her transition to triathlon seems to be paying dividends, as this adds to a string of recent successes including representing England’s cross-country team in Spain. Finally, Almi Nerurkar took bronze, celebrating in style by opening a bottle of champagne in front of home crowds.

Amelia Quirk with Phoebe Barker (right) and Almi Nerurkar (left) (BUCS)

This reflects just a spotlight of the 2000 university runners on Saturday who all showcased grit, determination and a bright future for cross-country running in Britain.

Despite British university athletics funding being notably modest compared to the United States, the scenes from BUCS show enthusiasm doesn’t fall far behind. The course at Temple Newsam may have been a far cry from the luxurious NCAA golf courses, but I’m sure its splendour would be lost without the foot deep mud, no entry policy and signature runner who turns up dressed as Shrek.

Men’s long race team winners Birmingham Uni with Oxford (left) and Loughborough

The students continued their enthusiasm at arguably the biggest event of the day – the BUCS XC after party. No other party has seen as many lightweights, Garmins, or exchanges of Strava handles. It’s also traditionally hallmarked by at least one coach left surprised, their athlete logged their SLR at 3am. Amongst bitter rivalry and huge celebrations, BUCS 2024 lived up to all its hype.

Now we await the next Derby Day, Loughborough vs Birmingham BUCS XC 2025.

Full results here

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