Stirling Athletics shine in Sheffield

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Photo credit: Laura Robertson

It’s been a busy month for the Athletics team with not one, but two BUCS excursions to Sheffield, England.

Athletics is often prematurely judged as a very individualistic sport, but never have I felt more team enthusiasm and spirit than I have with this group of inspiring athletes.

Catering to the different distance preferences our team is split into endurance runners and sprinters, each section tackling a different branch of BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport).

The endurance runners, along with a group of triathletes, traveled to Graves Park in Sheffield to compete in the Cross Country Championship on February 4, while the sprinters traveled to EIS Sheffield to compete in the Indoor Athletics Championship taking place from February 17 to 19.

Led by cross country captain Aidan Thompson, the excursion to the BUCS Cross Country Championship was taken by bus on February 3.

After having carefully piled our excessive collection of sneakers and spikes onboard, it was simply down to a six-hour journey of mental prep and anticipation for the next day.

Although the minimal bathroom stops proved to have some unexpected consequences in terms of pleasant air quality, it was nevertheless an ideal time to bond with teammates, both old and new.

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Photo credit: Emma Simper

According to the official BUCS website, the turnout for the 2017 event was the largest so far, with a total of 1991 students competing across the three races.

When asked about whether this increase in participants created any noticeable differences, Thompson responded with a clear lack of surprise, crediting the general rise of athletics over the last decade, both on a local and national level, for not only the increase in numbers but the heightened enthusiasm surrounding the sport.

“For those like myself, who have been involved in athletics for a while, we tend to agree that compared to that of club level, the buzz and energy surrounding university athletics events are more similar to that of a football match than a race. The noise on race day could be heard from the car park and during the race it was great to see not just the Stirling team get behind each other, but also other Scottish universities cheer on their counterparts.”

The three races making up the event were the men’s A race at 10.36 km, the 7.38 km women’s race, and the 8.18 km men’s B race.

Representing Stirling University, we had five athletes in men’s A, nine in the women’s race, and seven in men’s B.

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Photo credit: Jonnie Nisbet

Each course included plenty of hills, mud, and even a stack of hay bales for good measure.

But luckily the sun was on our side for the day, making the chill in the air just bearable for the amount of time we had to spend away from the warmth of our extra layers.

Comparing the composition of this course to that of Gloucester in 2016, Thompson felt that “no one was complaining about lack of difficulty this year; however, I think everyone coped well in the circumstances as we didn’t have a single drop out.”

In response to that, I’d personally like to recognize our triathlete Phoebe Lloyd-Evans, who after only 200 meters lost her one shoe in the mud, finishing the entirety of the race in just her sock. (Note: no shoe was permanently left behind at this event and they have now been happily reunited.)

Thompson admits it was always going to be hard to replicate the men’s A race’s very respectable 7th place finish of 2016, especially with a few last-minute drop outs.

Thompson said he was “very content” to take 2nd in Scotland and

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Photo credit: Jonnie Nisbet

“I have big hopes for our team in the future. There’s a feel-good factor in the club at the moment, everyone gets on well, and there are lots of close friendships. This only encourages us to work that much harder, so if we can maintain this then our team can come on leaps and bounds!”

Another captain who truly believes in the power of teamwork is fourth year Adrienne Rennie, who was responsible for the group of sprinters at last weekend’s Indoor Athletics Championship.

The event was full of personal bests, semi-final and final qualifications, as well as a new university record in the 4 x 200m women’s relay, by Nicole Muirhead, Paula Gass, Cara Steven, and Adrienne Rennie herself.

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Photo credit: Laura Robertson

Adrienne Rennie said: “I was overwhelmed by how well all the athletes have done. They are really showing how much hard work pays off, and I definitely accredit the success of the weekend to our sprint coach, Kevin Reynolds.

“He was wholeheartedly there for the team the entire weekend, and for me, personally, I want to do well for Kevin as he puts time and effort into people who give him the same time and effort in return.”

While Rennie, is nearing the end of her successful athletic career at Stirling, Cameron Tindle, a new addition to the Stirling team, is just getting started.

Managing to land a 4th place finish in the 60m final at his first BUCS championship, we can only look forward to seeing what’s next for this highly rated young sprinter in the years to come.

Up next for the team is Scottish Outdoors and BUCS Outdoors in April, where Rennie said her ultimate goal is to medal again at Scottish Outdoors and although maybe a bit of a pipe dream, proceed to the finals at BUCS Outdoors.

“I just want to see the team improve again and again, because it doesn’t matter if you’re new to the sport, you can still excel.”

Passing on her words of wisdom, Rennie said: “Don’t let people think you don’t know anything because you are less experienced. Think of the achievements outside of podiums and finals because that is what will keep you going.”

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