On Saturday Week 8 last term, Lancaster University Running Club’s men’s team took a huge stride towards promotion by taking maximum points in the third XC race of the season to leave them top of the table at the halfway stage, whilst the women’s team got their campaign underway thanks to a respectable 7th place finish out 25 teams in their league.
It was a tough test for the runners because, as well as it being a Mid Lancs League race, it also acted as the trials for the European Cross Country Championships which took place in France the following month. Because of this, the standard of the race was driven far above the usual quality, with the top runners in the country such as Olympic Athletes Tom Lancashire and Stephanie Twell coming from far and wide to compete for a place in the GB team.
It was against this backdrop that the women’s team put in by far their best display of the season. In previous races they have struggled to get a full team out, but here that was no issue, with six runners vying for the three places that count for team points. It was Tilly McCarthy in her first XC of the season who led the way for Lancaster, battling her way to an impressive time of 38:55, whilst Shan Preece and Heather Medley (who was on XC debut) filled the remaining two points scoring positions with times of 41:11 and 42:51 respectively. Jenny Mote, Kaylea Haynes and Lucy Morgan all also finished in under 50 minutes in a show of unprecedented strength for the women’s team, which if they can continue for the remaining three races of the season should see them climb towards the top end of the table.
For the men, it was more of the same of what they’ve been producing all year. Despite the absence of Race Captain Tom Greaves, they still had all six counters finishing in under 40 minutes. Ross Butcher led the way with an outstanding 36:57, with Jack Okell, Ingvar Hjartarson, Andrew Crickmore, Steven Pugh and Ben Francis making up the rest of the counting positions. With seven more runners, four of whom came in under 45 minutes, this was a performance of a kind of depth that the club has always been driving for. With the team now one point clear of Kendal in second place, and more importantly eight points clear of third place, with the top two to get promoted they could be celebrating a second successive promotion before too long.