At 12pm on 31st January 2015, the shrill crackle of a starting pistol signalled not just the start of the Men's A race, but the beginning of our BUCS season.
Thirty-two lean and feisty cross country runners carried league triumph and unshakeable team spirit into the nation's showpiece occasion for student long-distance running. A Men's A team mixing experience and raw speed, with the likes of Ash Chambers, Mike Robinson and Ollie Andrew wearily treading upon familiar turf, and youthful exuberance, in the form of debutants Charlie Critchley, Joe Donkin and Phil Bridge, tackled the elite 12km race with guile and passion. Ash crossed the line in a highly respectable 59th place with Mike following a minute after in 89th, while Charlie and Phil came home just 12 places apart, both confirming their ability to the rest of the Club. A glorious rivalry between these two is in the offing.
The Ladies' race followed. In a race packed with international quality, featuring the likes of Emelia Gorecka and Jessica Judd, our girls laughed at the apparent overwhelming might of the competition. Fresher Lydia Trow stormed into the lead from the off with Club Captain Steph McCall marking her swansong in brilliant fashion, following close behind from the beginning. While Lydia was unable to maintain her ludicrous tactical approach to the race, coming home in an excellent 75th place, Steph and Vicky Budd put in excellent performances, finishing 28th and 53rd respectively. Eleanor Johnson's encouraging 163rd continued an excellent sign of things to come for the Ladies, and in Steph and Vicky's absence, we can expect much from this crop of girls in 2016.
The Men's B race, widely regarded as the highlight of the day and once described by Steve Cram as "the real hotbed of British talent", was heavily comprised of EUAC veterans, with Cross Country Captain Jack Gavin, fresh from his spine-tingling pre-race speech, leading a Jurassic cohort into the 8km masterclass. An excellent debut from Alex Cooper along with strong performances from Nick Elvidge and Joe Perkins capped off a wonderful day in Sussex for the Club; the deafening holler of the crowd, the blood-frying buzz on the start line that never failed to electrify us remaining with the runners as they careered up and down soupy trails in this, the purest of sports.
The less said about the evening that followed, the better.