Athletics Club News - May 2019

Read the latest news from the Athletics Club written by Sam Cruchley (PhD Metallurgy and Materials, 2015), George Biggs (Current Student) and Luke Gunn (Head of Athletics).

An invitation

Ivy League

On Wednesday 26 June, we host a combined Harvard and Yale team for a match competition followed by a banquet dinner. We would love to see as many of you there supporting our team on the day, before joining us and our American friends at a celebration banquet.

More details will follow, but if you would like to attend please get in contact with us by email and we will keep you informed.

Birmingham Relays 2019

The second event, builds on the success of last year’s Ivy League competition with the second Birmingham Relays. This take places on the evening of Friday 2 August and includes a very exciting and engaging format of athletics. It’s a great format for athletes and spectators alike, with cheer zones on the infield to let spectators get closer to the action, British record attempts in the middle distance relays and plenty of great food. Please join us for what will be a great day of athletics. Full details on the day will be available soon. We look forward to seeing as many of you there.

Open meets

This year, on our brand new track, we are hosting a series of three open meetings on Wednesday evenings. The events are going to cover the full spectrum of high quality events and incorporate BMC gold standard events, electronic distance measurement and timing. The dates are listed below and links on how you can enter are below. Please spread the word about these events.

  • Wednesday 8 May
  • Wednesday 5 June
  • Wednesday 3 July

Club update

Ivy league tour – Harvard and Yale visit (24-27 June 2019)

This year it is the turn of Harvard and Yale to visit the UK as part of our prestigious exchange partnership with four Ivy League universities (Pennsylvania, Cornell, Harvard and Yale). This partnership is much loved by all of athletes past and present for the friendships and experiences it has given them over the past 50+ years having first started in 1962.

As part of Harvard and Yale’s visit we are planning to host a combined Harvard and Yale team for a match competition followed by a banquet dinner and as mentioned previously we would love to see as many of you there supporting our team on the day, before joining us and our American friends at a celebration banquet that evening.

If anyone has any stories, anecdotes or pictures from these exchange trips, we would love you to get in touch and share them with us so we can share some of these with our American friends and try and strength the partnership further. Please email them to or and we will try to include as many of them as we can at the celebratory banquet dinner.

Last year for the first time in a few years, we resurrected the banquet dinner, which is something, which we feel, is extremely important to the relationship and was a substantial success last year. However, hosting the Americans has put a significant financial strain on the athletics club to raise enough to host this trip in the manor it deserves.

As such, we are looking for people to sponsor tables at the dinner, if anyone would be interested in sponsoring a table of American students please get in touch on the following email address ( and we can discuss it. However, more importantly, we would love to see you there.

England Athletics GOLD standard Charter Mark

In December, we featured on the BBC’s Midlands today as we became the first and only university to be award the England Athletics Gold standard Charter Mark. This recognises the high standards of support being offered at Birmingham and acknowledges the work we have put in to make sure that student athletes from all athletics events are supported and the university club offers a vibrant training and competitive environment.

Bud’s run

Sunday 21 October, brought yet another Bud’s run to the University’s beautiful campus and yet again, due to the

extensive building and landscaping work the university is doing, the route was slightly altered. However, the 5km still managed to incorporate the beautiful buildings that Birmingham’s campus has to offer, starting behind the Aston Webb Building and finishing in Chancellor’s Court, in front of the clock tower. A staggering 328 runners completed the course 

which included Olympians, bankers, school kids and Parkinson’s sufferers and was won by Tom Dodd in 14.43.

The whole day raised loads of money for Parkinson’s UK and raised the total to an incredible £87,000 for Parkinson’s UK, with more having been raised through other Bud’s run one of events. The continued success of this event could not have happened without the wonderful team at Bud’s Run, the University of Birmingham and a whole host of other special people.

However, it is now time for a break, with the run not returning in 2019. Please make sure you look out for other special Bud’s run events. 

Buds' run advert on television screen

International representation

It has been a remarkable few months for the club with one of our athletes, fresher Amelia Quirk competing in senior race for GB at World Cross-country championships alongside one our Irish alumni Sara Treacy. Both performed admirably, with Amelia coming 79th and helping the GB team to 4th and Sara coming 73rd.

A few weeks before this Mari Smith qualified for the 800m at the European championships by coming 2nd in the national championships and then running a PB of 2.02 at the Birmingham Grand prix indoor meet the week after.  When at European indoor championships, Mari ran superbly to qualify for the final and finish in a very respectable 5th place.  

British Universities and Colleges Championships

For the rest of the club, it has been a busy few months with the British Universities cross-country and indoor championships. 

Cross Country Championships

For a University of Birmingham middle distance athlete, there is no bigger day than the first Saturday in February. Aweekend where heroes are made, stories are told and legends remembered. Being one of the big three in university distance running, the metaphorical weight of the famous vest can be seen as a burden or an opportunity. Athletes carry the weight of expectation stemming from a generation of success.

Departing on the Friday, 105 athletes and cheerleaders travelled across the country to the south west. A mixture of nervousness and excitement filled the air on Saturday morning. Freshers Elisha Tait, Abbie Saker and Saskia Milliard revolutionised the BUAC facepaint landscape, as the traditional yet somewhat basic three stripes were replaced with an intricate Vincent Van Gogh style lion, planted proudly on the cheek of each athlete.

As usual the noise was absolutely deafening around the course with BUAC supporters in every corner. BUCS cross always demonstrates just why BUAC is so special, with alumni regularly returning to support the team. Visible pain was etched on the faces of every runner and it was clear just what it meant to them. The quality of the fields were such that both Loughborough and St Mary’s both fielded multiple well-established internationals. However, not to be put off our girls performed incredibly by coming second overall. They were led home by a brilliant run from Amelia Quirk in 2nd (beaten by the raining u23 European cross-country champion) followed closely by Sabrina Sinha (12th) and Julia Tomczack (15th).  There were also fine runs from Laura Gent (16th), Emma Houchell (19th), Emily Thompson (22nd) and perhaps even more excitingly 9 of BUAC’s top 12 are still here next year, and you can be sure team gold will be the target in twelve months’ time.

The men’s A race is entwined with history and nostalgic tales of success, the guys rallied to finish in 6th place, and for the first time in 3 years it felt like a step in the right direction. Carps (35th) led the team home, closely followed by Charlie (41st), Drabble (46th), Alex Lanz (59th), Grant (66th) and Rieley (76th). Every year the field seems to get stronger at BUCS, with 22 of the top 30 having previously represented England or GB. In addition, similarly to the girls, 4 of that team is still at the club next year, and if you add in a couple of absentees missing from the race then who knows what we can achieve next year. We can expect the guys to comeback even stronger next year.

As ever with BUCS, there are countless individual performances that deserve mentioning, but ultimately the event is so great because we’re there representing the club we all love. For that young girls’ team to get team silver is quite simply astonishing and the future looks incredibly bright. From a boys’ perspective, we achieved our highest finish since 2016 despite missing some key players. There is no doubting that’s a big step in the right direction, and who knows what we can achieve next year. Full credit to Captains Jethro McGraw and Emma Houchell, who put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. From organising rooms, to learning to drive a minibus in order to make the event affordable, we should be thanking them for making the entire experience a smooth and enjoyable one. Once again, BUCS Cross did not disappoint and the BUAC train goes rolling onto next year!

The Birmingham BUCS Cross country team

Indoor Championships

The team then moved onto the indoor championships and it’s safe to say the University of Birmingham Track and Field Indoor team scrapped, fought and hustled against, the best competition this nation has to offer to come overall second in the British University Indoor Athletics Championships 2019. The team battled against all the odds with injuries and grand prix call-ups alike to gain eight medals from our very own righteous students.

The first day of competition saw Jake Porter take to the track and win a close Bronze in the 60mH amongst a strong field. Day Two was the day of qualifying, with no finals it was a day of executing the perfect race, jump or throw whilst conserving enough energy for the main event later in the weekend. Suspense grew as twenty-five of BUAC’s finest donned the vibrant red to contest for finals spots.

Performances of note include Issy Boffey attempting a championship best performance in her semi-final to run 2.06, whilst Jack Hocking clocked the quickest qualifying time in the men’s 400m with a performance of 48.9s. Maisie Grice also ran superbly and was unfortunate not to progress through to final. Rory the Lion made an appearance in the mascot race also, resulting in a particularly wet Joe Watkins. The men’s 4x200m relay team reduced by injury and individual commitments stepped up to the plate with some incredible split times from runners who don’t specialise in the discipline, whilst the woman’s team secured their spot and a good lane for the final.

On the morning of the third day as news that Mari Smith had run brilliant at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham gaining the standard required to compete at the European Indoor Athletics Championships. This news seemed to inspire motivate the team further, driving them to performances seldom seen in an athlete’s career as for the third and final time for this year the gold and red of Birmingham was seen on the indoor lanes of Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.

On the track Jack Hocking galloped round the last bend to take Silver in the men’s 400m final. Whilst in the woman’s race Ellie Ravenscroft a normally so sweet and loving woman, spread fear into even my heart as I saw the grimace on her face whilst sprinting for the line as she swooped down upon the woman’s 400m final to snatch a Bronze position and place on the podium. James Gormley then took to the track to take Gold in the men’s 3000m in glorious style with clear daylight between himself and the rest of the field. This was closely followed by a silver and bronze from Kate Seary and Vic Weir in the woman’s 3000m.

Issy Boffey then cantered round in an effortless manor to victory. The time on the clock stopped at 2.06, as the championship best performance held out for yet another year, but the Gold medal was achieved none the less. In the 1500m Emily Thompson inspired by her training partner, friend and fellow first year then gritted her teeth against the growing anguish with every stride to pull away against a strong field and stake her claim as an exemplary athlete with a Gold medal. Never more deserved, never in doubt.

Jethro McGraw last year’s Bronze medallist fresh from campaign on the fields of Exeter at the BUCS cross country then returned to the indoor lanes with the weekend his season opener in the men’s 1500m. He carried himself with the dignity and courage that is expected of the Cross-Country Captain, followed closely by Joe Tuffin as he took the race on and was in medal contention for 1499m of the race but was dipped on the line for a 4th place finish.

After such a great result, plans are being developed to challenge Loughborough for the gold medal. With tools such as the new campus track, world class sports centre and a coaching team as enthusiastic and passionate as the one we are so lucky to have, we will surely live up to this expectation.

Looking ahead to the future - upcoming events

We have a busy schedule of events coming up and below are some of the highlights for your diaries. Please follow us on twitter (@UBSportAthletic) to see how we get on!!!

  • BUCS Outdoor Championships – 4-6 May 2019
  • BUCS 10K Championships – 27 April 2019
  • BUCS combined events – 26-27 May 2019

Mid-week opens (with BMC Gold standard status):

  • Wednesday 8 May
  • Wednesday 5 June
  • Wednesday 3 July
  • Harvard – Yale – Birmingham competition – Wednesday 26 June
  • Ivy League tour banquet dinner (including Harvard and Yale) – Wednesday 26 June 2019

All Alumni are welcome to attend both events and reminisce with our American friends.

Birmingham Relays – Friday 2 August 2019


Bob Ashwood Memorial Fund

The Robert Ashwood Memorial Fund (RAMF) was setup after the death of Robert (Bob) Ashwood in August 2013 to continue Bob’s prolific work in supporting and developing British Junior and U23 Middle and Long Distance Athletes and has awarded a number of grants to the clubs athletes over a number of years.

Bob was well known and liked within the athletics club before his untimely death, having spent a significant stint with his long term friend and coaching ally Bub Baldaro. He was involved in numerous events and competitions and always had time to help anyone who wanted it. This fund will help to continue his work and has only been made possible with the generous donations of his friends and family, something that we must all applaud and be thankful for. Bob was a great man and someone who is sorely missed but will not be forgotten and his legacy will continue. The fund has already supported over 20 athletes giving out over £6,000.

If anyone would like more information about this fund, the work it does or would like to support it in anyway please contact Matt Vaux-Harvey at