Bad weather in the West Country will not stop the annual British Universities and Colleges Cross Country Champs going ahead on Saturday at Bicton College

The leading student distance runners in the country are on their way to Devon for a British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Cross Country Championships which looks set to go ahead despite snow-related travel chaos in the area on Thursday.

BUCS competitors are not easily beaten by the weather. In 2009 the organisers cancelled the championships in Aberdeen but with many teams already having spent thousands of pounds to travel to Scotland, an unofficial race was staged with Andy Vernon and Lauren Howarth the ‘winners’ as the event featured on the cover of AW.

Photo by Job King

This time conditions look set to be better with no snow forecast for Saturday as Exeter University hosts races that will be staged at Bicton College near Budleigh Salterton. The picturesque course weaves around the lake and fields of the agricultural college’s extensive grounds and it is the same venue that held the South of England Championships in 2003 and 2006.

Saturday’s races are the latest in the long history of the national students championships, too. During 2019 the BUCS is celebrating “100 years of British university sport” and past winners of the cross country titles include Paula Radcliffe in 1993 and 1996, Chris Thompson in 2004, Dave Clarke in 1981 and AW’s publisher Wendy Sly in 1980.

For the main men’s and women’s races there will be new champions this year as 2018 winners Alex Yee and Harriet Knowles-Jones are not set to compete this weekend.

The women’s 6km race sees Jess Judd attempting to lead Loughborough to a successful defence of their team title. She is backed up by athletes like Zoe Wassell, Amy Griffiths, Abbie Donnelly and Kirsty Walker but they face stiff opposition.

A strong Birmingham squad includes Sabrina Sinha, Victoria Weir, Amelia Quirk, Yasmin Austridge and Mari Smith.

Edinburgh, meanwhile, are making a 900-mile round trip with a team that includes Anna Mcfadyen, Mhairi Maclennan and Holly Page.

St Mary’s is led by Anna Emilie Moller – with Denmark’s European under-23 champion the favourite to win individual gold – while her team-mates include Louise Small.

Other contenders include Rebecca Murray of Brunel, Bronwen Owen of Leeds Beckett, Tiffany Penfold of Edge Hill and Khai Mhlanga of Writtle College.

Entries for the men’s 10km event are led by Emile Cairess – the individual bronze medallist from last year and winner of last weekend’s Northern title at Pontefract, who will be leading St Mary’s in its defence of the team title.

Loughborough’s team includes English Schools champion Matt Willis plus Inter-Counties junior champion Tom Mortimer, Patrick Dever and Jamie Williamson, while Oliver Fox will be looking to make an impact for last year’s team runners up Cambridge.

The women’s race starts at 12 noon, the men’s 10km at 1pm, while the shorter 8km event for men is at 2.15pm.

» See AW’s social media and website for coverage on Saturday, with more in the February 7 issue of AW magazine

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