The final Bicester AC outdoor Winter session took place recently at Bicester School.  This was combined with the outdoor Winter presentation.  Emma Gould, Bicester AC’s Cross Country Coordinator, was able to reflect on what had been an eventful season.  Two major championships were cancelled, one of which included the Southern Inter Counties Cross Country Championships at Horspath, where runners lined up in one race before the meet was cancelled.  At the same venue one month later, runners encountered knee deep mud and spectators found it difficult to move round in challenging conditions.  However cross country running is where rain rarely stops play and a way is found for events to proceed.  This was reflected in the first Oxfordshire League match of the season co-hosted by Bicester AC and Witney Road Runners held at Cornbury Park where a deluge on the Saturday had decimated parts of the car park and the course.  However, a team effort secured a solution and the event was saved.

And team effort was a theme that ran through the presentation amidst the excellent individual performances that had been executed during the season which included an almost unprecedented two individual series wins in the Oxfordshire League Cross Country for Bicester AC.  Winner of the under 13 boy’s title, Bicester’s Leo Blyton had a previous best Oxfordshire League position of 17th going into the 2023/24 season.  Blyton finished first in three Oxfordshire League races and pipped his main rival to take the overall under 13 boy’s league title in the final event at Henley Showground.  Blyton also competed well in the Chiltern League where he finished 4th in the under 13 boy’s final standings in what was very a high standard competition for his age category.  For these performances Blyton was awarded the best junior male shield.

Bicester’s other Oxfordshire League winner was Anna Jolliffe who matched Blyton’s three Oxfordshire league wins in the under 20 women’s category.  These races were run in conjunction with the senior ladies races and Jolliffe equipped herself very well in this competition which included an 8th place out of the 166 finishers in the Cirencester heat.  Jolliffe was awarded the best junior female shield. 

Jolliffe was a major player in the Bicester AC senior ladies team in this year’s Oxfordshire League and along with Amy Gould, Leanne Stocker and Emily Benfield was presented with a medal for finishing 2nd team in the final division 3 standings which was enough to earn them promotion to division 2.  This was a superb effort by the Bicester ladies and their final points haul of 709 points was lower than all but three of the teams in division 2 and was ahead of two of the teams in division 1.  Their performances earned them the best contribution shield.

There were some stellar improvements by other Bicester AC athletes during the season.  Darragh Cassidy finished in the top 4 finishers in each of his Oxfordshire League races and capped a fine season with a superb 3rd in the final under 13 league standings including two podium placings.  Cassidy’s effort in the UK Inter County Cross Country Championships, where he finished 61st, was 176 places higher than his placing in the corresponding race the previous season.  Cassidy was awarded the most improved performer shield.

Ottilie Maclean was performing in her first season of competitive action.  She was Bicester’s highest placed runner in the under 9 girl final Oxfordshire League standings in 7th place, which included 4th and 6th places at Cornbury Park and Cotswold Farm Park respectively.  Maclean was awarded the under 11 best performance shield.

There were two further shields given for the boy and girl members of the year.  These awards are given in recognition to athletes, who have contributed to the wider team effort in their overall contributions, in both training and races.   Megan Surman is in her first season of competitive action and has made good steady progress throughout the season finishing in the top half of finishers in the under 13 girl’s event at Cotswold Farm Park.  She was Bicester’s leading finisher in the under 13 Oxfordshire County Championship race at Horspath and the team, which also included Maya Korn and Grace Fulcher, were presented with their county bronze medals at the presentation ceremony.  Surman was presented with the girl member’s of the year award.

Theo Cogan has only recently joined the club and has shown steady improvement in training.  He participated in his first Oxfordshire League event, running in the very demanding Henley Showground event and did very well to complete his first ever race.  Cogan’s progress since he joined the club was recognised with the award of the boy member’s of the year shield.