Last Wednesday, 14th November, just two weeks after Mitcham Common’s sunny race, London’s sturdy athletes took out their spikes once more to compete in this term’s (and 2018’s) final LUCA Cross-Country League race, the much-anticipated Wimbledon Common.
With laps being longer than average at 4.7km, the women’s race consisted of just one lap while the men had to go around the course twice. As the hour grew near, the teams gathered by the Windmill Tea Rooms to prepare for the start of the race.
As usual, the race began with a stampede as 216 runners stormed off at 15:15 in the afternoon and made their way to the woods.
The course is well-known for its technical terrain and has been known to turn many ankles over the years.
This year the days preceding the race had been suitably wet, making the course even more technical than it otherwise would have been.
The wide start-line soon narrowed to an early bottleneck, where ICXCAC star Niki managed to trip newbie PhDaniel who fell with a thud before somehow making it back to his feet without being trampled.
The route then took the runners along the path for a long straight before turning into mud. Several undulations and puddles later, the course led downwards before a long climb back towards the start to complete the lap.
Very quickly the runners started to reach the finish line as after 18:16, Imperial’s Katie Olding came in first in the women’s race, followed very closely by a St Mary’s athlete who spoiled an Imperial clean-sweep as Alex Mundell and Georgia Curry came third and fourth place in 18:25 and 18:39 respectively. Chloe Baker rounded off the team for Imperial, with a stunning 9th on her ICXCAC debut.
On the day, Imperial’s A team came in first with 587 points, St Mary’s A team came in a close second with 581 points, King’s A team in third with 537 points and UCL’s A team in fourth with 525 points.
This allowed Imperial’s Women’s A to build on their commanding lead in the league, with the team now on 1741 points – increasing their lead by 62 points to 91 ahead of UCL A’s 1650 with two races to go next term.
In the men’s race, St Mary’s athletes dominated the field, taking 9 of the top 12 places, but fortunately, Imperial runners Niki “Tripper” Faulkner and debutant Dan “Tripped” Mulryan broke the St Mary’s perfect finish as they placed fifth and third respectively in 31:21 and 31:15.
It takes more than one fall to keep Dan from the medals!
On the day, SMU placed 1st and 2nd with their A and B teams, with Imperial Men’s A coming in third – their best finish in the league this season – gaining 36 points on UCL.
Overall, Imperial Men’s A remain in 4th, some 75 points adrift of St Mary’s in 3rd and a commanding 131 point ahead of Reading in 5th.
Wimbledon Common has always been host to the annual University of London XC Championships and Bannister Cup – two championships with a separate scoring system from the overall league. Imperial are ineligible for the UL Champs since voting for “Ixit” by leaving the University of London in 2006.
Imperial remained eligible for the Bannister Cup, however, named after late-famous former-student of St Mary’s Hospital which was incorporated into ICSM in 1997. The Cup sees the scores of the first three men and two women who study medicine, biomedical science, or any other vaguely medical field forming a team.
With former-captain Alex Mundell rallying the medic troops, Imperial managed to regain the trophy from Barts who reluctantly handed over the trophy for the medal ceremony before hastily requesting it back as it “belongs in their museum”.
The so-called “ICSM A” team topped the table with just 22 points with Barts on 28 (for some reason the scores are inverted in the Bannister Cup).
Meanwhile in the Mike Baggs Trophy, which scores points to both men’s and women’s teams, Imperial remain top with a narrow 2-point lead over St Mary’s, who themselves are just 1-point ahead of UCL.
It really is all to play for with 2 races left in the league!
In the individual standings, the women’s podium saw a reshuffling as Imperial’s Kate Olding overtook teammate Georgia Curry, inverting the order of the Imperial duo atop the leaderboard with 446 and 445 points respectively.
The London XC League continues in January, with the final two races taking place at Alexandra Palace and Wormwood Scrubs.