Athletics Club News

Read the latest news from the Athletics Club written by Sam Cruchley (PhD Metallurgy and Materials, 2015), Luke Gunn (Head of Athletics), and current students Matt Curtis and Tom Coe.

Club Update

Ivy league tour – Cornell and Penn visit

As many of you will know and have experienced first-hand, the club’s exchange between our Ivy League friends and ourselves is a historic partnership, which has been running since 1962 and is one of the highlights of our time at University.

So, after months of planning by a student led committGroup of athletes listen to speakeree, on Friday 22 June, 60 athletes and 16 coaches and support staff from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell descended on the University on the second leg of their UK tour.  Our students gave them an extremely warm welcome in our new sports centre, where they were given some basic information, a packed lunch (lovingly made by several of our students) and got to meet their hosts for the next few days. As soon as this was over, it was quickly back to their host houses to drop their luggage off before heading to the track for a light training session. It was at this point that we decided to give them their commemorative University of Birmingham Relays T-shirts, as a gift to remember their time here. Afterwards, there was a quiet dinner in preparation for our landmark event the next day - the University of Birmingham Relays… More on this and a competition below.

Following the Relays event, there was time for a big celebration. We held a massive banquet in honour our our guests. We had a welcome talk by our Head Coach Luke, speeches by both Head Coaches of Penn and Cornell and a lovely speech on the history of this partnership by the person who set it all up, Professor Mike Hayes.  As is customary for a visit to Birmingham, the festivities continued late into the night, with our athletes taking everyone into the centre of Birmingham.

The following day, with a few sore heads, the visitors headed off for a visit to Warwick castle followed by a massive BBQ in Selly park. This brings us to the final day of the tour in Birmingham and what better way to say goodbye then having a big farewell brunch for everyone in the new Bournebrook sports pavilion.

The feedback we have had from the coaches and athletes from Penn and Cornell has been fantastic, and they are looking forward to repaying the hospitality we gave them in two years’ time, when we visit them.  If anything, the work that has gone into this year’s trip has strengthened the partnership. Group of female athletes smiling to camera

University of Birmingham Relays

Wowza. Gosh. Man. Damn. Just a select few of the noises coming from people’s mouths as they attempted to describe the inaugural Birmingham Relays on Saturday, June 23rd. 264 individual performances across 37 races, spanning 6 hours of top-class, spectacular and action-packed athletic performances. The event was based around a match event between the University of Birmingham, Limerick, Birchfield and a combined team from the Universities of Cornell and Penn. The American combined team’s involvement is based on the 56-year strong Ivy League exchange that Birmingham and the Universities have, and it was truly amazing to have them here for the weekend.Looking down the track at an ongoing relay race

The day featured a huge amount of wonderfully exciting and engaging events, including the unique relay format for which drama is almost always guaranteed. The athletics schedule was combined with an equally unique and powerful event format as loud and energetic music bellowed throughout the track. The icing on the cake to the meet was the intimate setting of the new University of Birmingham track, as we implemented specific cheer zones in the infields and outer lanes of the track in order to create an atmosphere like no other. So, let us run through some of the highlights of the day. Trophy named after Professor Mike Hayes.

Beginning with the track events, the men’s mile was an awesome contest between Birmingham first year starlet James Gormley and the former Iona College man, Kieran Clements. Being paced by final year 800m savant, the two men battled hard towards the infamous sub-4-minute mile, with Clements taking the win from Gormley – 4:03.72 and 4:03.97 respectively. Meanwhile on the women’s side, it was a dominant performance from Limerick’s Amy O’Donoghue, who edged out Birmingham’s Lydia Hallam and Penn’s Danielle Orie to win the race in a time of 4:49.65. The sprints hurdles always provide a superb battle and Saturday was no different. In the women’s 100m hurdles, 3 women went sub 14 seconds as Birchfield’s Heather Paton, Limerick’s SarahLavin and Cornell’s Brittany Stenekes battledit out to run some really quick times; 13.46 for Paton as she took the win, closely followed by Lavin and Stenekes in times of 13.65 and 13.79. The men’s 110mH was a stunning race between Birmingham’s own multiple BUCS medallist, Jake Porter and Cornell’s hurdle supremo, Austin Lyons. The two quickest men on paper came to lock horns and produced some great runs, with Porter doing enough to beat Lyons, as the Brit bested the Cornell man in a time of 13.99. The 3K was another brilliant race, in both the men and women’s side of things. In the women’s race, a commanding performance from the Commonwealth Games representative for Wales, Jenny Nesbitt, who ran a big PB of 9:17.98 to take the win. Whilst on the men’s side of things, Mark Pearce and Richard Allen fought hard, with the Aldershot athlete taking the victory in a time of 8:06.83 against Pearce’s 8:07.45. Meanwhile, in the women’s 400m, Penn SO. Nia Akins ran a time of 54.54 to take the win and run a PB which puts her 6th all-time in Penn, a massive run! The men’s race had an equally strong field, with 2018 World Indoor Championships 400m GB man Lee Thompson going against BUAC 400mH alumni legend, Chris Mac, with both men going all out through to the line and there was a whisker in the end result as McAlister taking the win against Thompson by a mere 0.04 seconds, 47.40 versus 47.44.

On the field event side of things, the competition was equally high with the standout performances of the day for the men coming in the pole vault as Penn’s Sean Clarke jumped a massive 5.40 to take the win by 50 cm to the man in second, a jump which was just 10 cm short of the Heps champions 5.50 PB. Whilst, perhaps one of the best performances of the weekend was from Penn’s Maura Kimmel, as she threw 16.05m in the shot put to break the Penn school record and win the event ahead of Cornell’s Michaela Smith and Leena Morris. In the high jumps, there was also some great competition. Beginning in the women’s, as Cornell’s Margerite Lorenzo took the win ahead of Birmingham’s Emily Madden Forman, as she jumped a height of 1.70m, doubling up in the 100mH too, so a great day for her. In the men’s competition, it was a close contest between Highgate’s phenomenal talent Dominic Ogbechie and Birchfield’s Ryan Webb, with the both men jumping 2.10m, but the Highgate man took the victory on countback. In the women’s discus it was a dominant performance from Penn again, with a 1-2 finish from Ashley Anumba and Maura Kimmel, each throwing 53.39m and 48.07m respectively. Whilst in the men’s long jump, the man, the myth and the legend – ALED PRICE – jumped a great 7.18m to win the event for Birmingham, what a man.

Being called the Birmingham Relays, it was only poetic that the day end with some scintillating relay action, which was duly Two relay runnersdelivered. The 4 x 200m relay was a 1 on 1 race in both the men’s and women’s side of things. Penn and Cornell took the win in both ahead of Birmingham, a winning time of women’s of 1:38.95 and a time of 1:26.80 in the men’s. The women’s 4 x 800m was the next relay event, with teams from Cornell/Penn, England Juniors, Harborne Hunz, Birmingham A and B making up the field. The race had been billed up as a real headline, with the England Juniors team going for the World Junior record of 8:37, around about a 2:09 average per leg – it was made even more exciting by the fact that the team was made up of girls who are all coming to Birmingham in September to begin their undergraduate studies. It was a closely run event in the end between the Cornell/Penn team and the England Juniors, as GB Junior Issy Boffey chasing down the Americans final leg, but in the end they just missed out, with the American team taking a great win in an equally great time of 8:38.11, with the England team running 8:39.78 – just missing out on the world junior record, but they are all eligible to run it next year! The final relay to call is the Men’s Distance Medley Relay; 1200m, 400m, 800m and 1600m and what a race it was between Birmingham’s alumni team and Limerick. After a strong leg from Portland Pilot’s Stuart McCallum, the alumni were well in contention but then came the 1600m leg, where Limerick had opened up a considerable lead and it was down to Jonny Hay to work his magic and try to claw back time in whatever way he could. It came down to the final 200m where Hay managed to make up for at least 7 seconds on the Limerick athlete and he sprinted home to take the win in a time of 9:58.64 in an exceptional finish.

Mixed group of students listen to older coachWhat a day. But of course, this was not only a celebration of the wonderful athletic heritage shared between our historic Universities, but a competition of the highest order and it was the combined Cornell and Penn team which took home the new Professor Michael Hayes trophy and so it will remain in America for two years when we go over there and win it back!!

The first Birmingham Relays has been an enormous success and we as a club and University are massively proud to have put on such a huge event by a student-led team especially one, which is so engaging within the athletics and university communities. It is only going to get better from here!

And so, we say goodbye to our amazing friends from the University of Limerick, Penn and Cornell, the exchange this year was the best I have ever been involved with and I have made friends, which will last a lifetime. Thank you for coming and we cannot wait to see you again, big love!

Results Update

BUCS 10k Championships, 28 April 2018 – Loughborough

Raising the curtain on this summer’s programme of BUCS events was the 2018 edition of the 10k championships. BUACs Bucs 10kdistance corps travelled to Loughborough with head coach Luke Gunn, producing an awesome set of results to kick start the 2018 season.

Despite unfavourable conditions behind enemy lines, BUAC produced a leading medal haul of two at these championships across both the men’s and women’s races.

Incoming women’s cross-country captain and established BUACer Emma Houchell lead the race for the best part of four miles and fought off the rest of the field in the final stages to seize a fine bronze medal in a time of 36.07. While in the men’s race, the ever-dependable Toby Cooke paced his effort to perfection whilst overcoming a 100m deficit to cross the line in the gold medal position for a huge win in 30.13!

Four female athletes smile to cameraGunn commented, “Neither have ever medalled at BUCS before and I can’t think of 2 better examples of where hard work can get you in the club”.

Backing up the medal winning pair were first year student Louisa Whittingham and Mr Passion himself, Dan Carpenter. Both on their BUAC track debut and both running brilliantly to smash their 10k PBs.

Louisa took 80s off her road best where a great sprint finish placed her 6th in a field which included two BUAC alumni: Molly Brown (5th) and Justine Anthony (7th), earning points for the team in a time of 36.45. Later in the day, Dan stuck to his task incredibly well pacing his effort and pulling away from his group to come home 12th in 31.57 breaking his PB by over 60s!


BUCS Outdoor Championships, 5-7 May – Bedford

BUCS outdoors 2018 proved to be another hugely successful weekend of championship athletics for BUAC. A weekend of wall-to-wall sun produced 8 medals an 2 club records.Outdoor championships

Decathlete Michael Bowler commenced UoB’s medal haul where a 20cm PB of 4.75m saw him clinch bronze in the men’s pole vault competition. Not done there, Michael qualified for the final of the 110m hurdles finishing 8th in a tricky race which saw sports scholar Jake Porter win bronze in 14.18s, making it four medals in two years for Jake across all BUCS championships.

Female athletes stretch for finish line in raceMari Smith, easily the stand out performer of the weekend for BUAC (no easy feat), dug deep in the home straight of the 800m to win gold in 2.03s, just 0.03s off the championship record. After winning her main event in style, Mari returned to the track to run the anchor leg of the women’s 4x400m relay where a 54.9s split managed to secure the girls quartet of Harriet Cooper, Lizzie Clifford, Charlotte Orton and Mari a stunning silver medal.

Another dual medal winning performer that featured in the women’s 4x400m squad was long hurdler Lizzie Clifford. Back-to-back PBs in the semis and final of the 400m hurdles ignited Lizzie’s hunger for medals where she claimed her first silver of the weekend in a time of 59.47s against some very strong opposition.

Yet more medals were won by BUAC pair Megan Davies and Jonny Davies. Megan matched her silver medal she earned last year in a very physical and competitive race with an exciting sprint finish that almost snatched the win. While Jonny also added a silver to his already impressive BUCS medal collection, making it four medals in four years at these championships against very strong competitors and in very hot conditions for distance running.

Adding to the success of the women’s 4x400 relay team, both the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m teams ran in their respective relay finals where both earned two fantastic new club records. With not a specialist 100m runner between them, some silky-smooth exchanges from the 4x100m quartet of Michael Bowler, Jack Hocking, Ryan Lowe and Freddie Owsley saw the baton come home in a time of 42.37s for 6th. Whilst in the final event of the weekend, the 4x400m squad of Tor Bennett-Williams, Mark Cottam, Jack Hocking and Freddie Owsley managed to carry the baton round for a brilliant bronze medal and record time of 3:13.27.

A special mention must go to super fresher Jack Hocking who ran lifetime bests in both the semis and final of the 400m, ending on 47.50s for 5th. Hocking masterfully competed in both the record breaking relays and set a split of 47.2 on third leg of the 4x400 in his last of a stunning 6 races during the weekend! Give that man a lemonade.

Even more club history was made during the weekend as the women’s discus final saw no less than three BUAC ladies finish Competitors in steeplechasein the top eight: Sam Milner 6th, Simone Mcken 7th & Luisa Chantler 8th - with club statisticians claiming that this is first time in history that BUAC has had three athletes finish this high in a BUCS field event competition.

You might also have noticed one BUAC member send shockwaves blasting round the distance running world during the weekend. Mark ‘MarkyP’ Pearce, became the first man ever to wear a bucket hat during an athletics race in a very hot 3000m steeplechase final. Mark took 30s off his PB for 4th in a time of 9:02. What a debut.

Finally, huge thanks must go to several people including fellow Track & Field Captain Kat Scott, Head of Athletics Luke Gunn and coaches Dominic McNeillis, Martin Owens, Jade Surman and Jan Aarre for making the weekend possible and assisting with preparations leading up to the event and throughout the course of the year.


BUCS Combined Events Championships, 27-28 May 2018 – Bedford

Decorated decathlete and sports scholar Michael Bowler contested in the British universities decathlon championship to add a deserved gold medal to his already impressive student-athlete trophy cabinet.

In-form Bowler consistently posted high points scoring performances throughout the weekend to comfortably command the BUCS event. Posting 11.33 in the 100m, 6.73 in the long jump, a 13.40 shot, 1.86 in the high jump and a 49.98 400m, the Irish International tallied 3726 points after day one. Michael continued to dominate the field during the second half of the decathlon, posting a 15.12 performance in the hurdles, followed by 39.71 (PB) in the discus, 4.32 in the vault, 54.59 (PB and longest of the day) in the javelin and a 4:40.37 1500m to seal victory, finishing with a PB score of 7263 total points.

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!

Bud’s Run is back again in 2018 on Sunday 21 October, trying to raise more money for Parkinson’s UK. We will be kicking off the action with the under 11s 2k at 11am (warm up at 10:50) followed by the 5k at 11.30am (warm up at 11:20), more details will follow soon, check out the Facebook page and website ( for more information.

Open training day. Saturday 13  October - An opportunity for prospective students to come and train with the squad, have lunch and hear from coaches and athletes in an informal Q&A. Places booked via

BUCS Cross-Country Championships – 2 February  2019

BUCS Indoors Championships – 15-17 February 2019

Font Romeu altitude training trip – TBC Easter 2019

BUCS Outdoor Championships – 4-6 May 2019

BUCS 10K Championships – TBC

BUCS combined events - TBC

Birmingham Relays (including Harvard and Yale visit) – Provisional 22 June 2019

Ivy League tour banquet dinner (including Harvard and Yale) – Provisional 22 June 2019

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


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 15 athletes giving out almost £5,000.

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