Durham finish 8th at BUCS Nationals

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DUAXC produced an impressive showing at the Nationals Championships in Sheffield, as 5 athletes reached the semi-finals of their events and 3 went one step further, by managing to reach the finals of their individual events. These achievements were then eclipsed by Jen Walsh who managed to secure a silver medal in the 3000m Women’s Final, providing Durham with some much deserved silverware to show for their efforts.

The 15 strong DUAXC team competed in a spectrum of events, consisting of 60m, 60H, 200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000m, and High Jump over the course of the weekend at the incredible facilities provided at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. For many of the athletes, this event represented the culmination of weeks of rigorous training at Maiden Castle and beyond, which ensured that the team were fully motivated to perform at their very best. Also, with the cross country season now over, the Indoor Championships offered the opportunity for some athletes to test themselves in a different events in an unfamiliar but ultimately cleaner and more level environment, as opposed to the treacherous cross country courses they were more accustomed to.

Oliva Walker and Gabi Burton, two athletes who have trained and raced together for many years at home for their local club Cannock and Stafford AC, secured the first points of the weekend for DUAXC in the final of the 60H. Olivia finished 5th, a mere 0.1 seconds ahead of her teammate Gabi who finished in 6th.

The third finalist was Jen Walsh, who raced in the 3000m in the final. This was her first experience of indoor championships but that fact was not apparent by the way she breezed through the qualifying heat for Sunday’s final. It was in the final that Jen produced the success of the weekend, as she produced a fantastic performance to win the silver medal in her event. The achievement of winning the silver medal was made all the more sweeter by the fact that she had won it on her birthday. A silver medal will be a hard present to top.

The 5 DUAXC semi-finalists also produced commendable performances. Rob Torch came 2nd in his heat, just behind the eventual silver medallist of the final, Dan Cheeseman. This encounter had an added edge as Cheeseman and Torch have had a healthy racing rivalry over the last few years. However in the semi-final, he was only able to finish in 6th, despite running 5 seconds quicker than in the previous heat.  Nevertheless, considering Torch had not competed on the track since August 2012, this was an impressive return to his indoors career.

Izzy Hainsworth and Rachel Highfield excelled in their qualifying heats for the 60m and advanced to the semi finals. Hainsworth raced well and was happy to round off her final year of competing for DUAXC with a semi-final race. On a further positive note, the future looks bright for DUAXC, as Rachel Scott (400m), Tessa Stockdale (200m), along with Highfield (60m) were all competing in their first ever competition.

The only slight disappointment of the weekend came in the Women’s Relays, as the team narrowly missed out on qualification by a mere 0.2 seconds. Nevertheless with a score of 16 individual points for the DUAXC female squad, this represented a sterling effort which placed them 8th overall in the team standings. With such strong competition racing in Sheffield, this performance put them behind arguably the 7th strongest teams at the championships.

A final mention should got to DUAXC Klein the Penguin, often mistaken for Pingu. Adrian Bailes donned the black and white onesie for the 200m mascot race in aid of Marie Curie. However officials deemed his fetching onesie to be not as debilitating to his performance as was required for the race. Therefore they proceed to tie his legs together to make his job all the more difficult. Inevitably this resulted in a disappointing last place finish for Bailes with a time of 65.35 seconds. Despite this ponderous finish, Bailes proved to be the primetime entertainment for the spectators in the arena, providing some welcome comic relief from the high standard of competition that had been on display all weekend.

Some standout performances and some promising signs for the future were exhibited in Sheffield. Durham University Athletics only seems poised to go from strength to strength and achieve bigger and better things.

Photograph: Team Durham

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