It was a jubilant day for Lancaster University Running Club’s men’s team as promotion out of Division Three was secured with two races to spare.
The fourth round of cross country took place at Hyndburn, a course which on the best of days is still notorious for being one of the toughest of the season, so the freezing conditions that saw many other sporting fixtures in the North West called off meant that this was the toughest challenge yet for the Lancaster squad.
Lancaster’s ability to seal promotion here was in some doubt, as due to several absent racers and Sam Settle pulling out of the race mid-way through because of injury, the strength in depth that had seen the men’s team pick up maximum points in the previous two races wasn’t there. That said, it was still an impressive display. Ross Butcher led the way for the men with a highly competitive time of 39:48 putting him 16th out of the entire race of 218. Jack Okell, Tom Greaves and Andrew Crickmore then finished in under 44 minutes, with Ben Francis and David Thomas finishing in the final counting positions for Lancaster. With Kendal just pipping them to the maximum 7 points, this meant that both LURC and Kendal are joint top of the table on 25 points. As the top two teams are promoted, and it being mathematically impossible for the trailing pack to catch either team, this meant that both teams clinched promotion. The challenge remains though as to whether or not Lancaster can see off Kendal to claim the Division Three title outright.
It was a case of good improvements but still a work in progress as far as the women’s team goes. Shan Preece again ran well and finished strongly for Lancaster, with her time of 35:29 giving her a solid 72nd place. Unfortunately though none of the rest of the team could quite finish inside the top 100, but Kaylea Haynes, Jenny Mote and debutant Zsofia Belteki all ran well to ensure the women’s team again picked up points. With the chances of promotion all but now gone, the task remains to ensure that the foundations are laid for a promotion charge next year by picking up points in the final two races.
In the immediate future though, both teams turn their attentions to BUCS XC in Gloucester in early February, with ambitions to make positive strides on last year’s performance they key priority.