On a clear, sunny, and surprisingly mild November morning, 65 students from 9 universities congregated on a small field in High Lodge Warren (part of the Thetford Forest). Organiser Jon Nelson managed to get everyone to the start with uncharacteristically few hold-ups (this is a student event!), and all competitors were set off, in two mass starts, for their first course of the day.
For anyone unfamiliar with the format of the event, courses consist of 2 butterfly loops which can be run in either order and in either direction, thus leading to 8 possible variants of the same course. After the first round, the field is split in half - the first half then running the semi-final, and the bottom half running the B final. After the semi-final, the first 4 runners only then run a third course in the final to determine the winners.
This year, courses were excellently planned by Chris Williamson, with the first round nicely splitting up the field for the following rounds. The second round courses were trickier, with some very fine navigation required in the intricate area underneath the Go Ape obstacles. The usual strong contingent of ShUOC men ensured them 3 places in the final, with Matt Rooke finishing third and making the final for UWOC. The women's competition was more open, with Becca Roberts finishing first in the semi-final for Loughborough, with the other three places going to Oxford and Manchester.
The finals were fast and furious, with Andrew Llewellyn winning the men's course for ShUOC, closely followed by his team mates David Hodkinson and Rhys Findlay Robinson to take all three top places. Oxford dominated the women's final with Helen Gardner taking first place, closely followed by Kat Orekhova. Third place went to Maria Ivermark of Manchester, in their first appearance at the Sprint-O.
Lastly was the most prestigious event of the day, the Elite Alco. With the absence of most of the ShUOC old boys, the race was far more open than usual, and there were many competitors willing to down pints of nasty beer/cider/cocktail in between legs. However, the next generation of ShUOC showed their might by taking all the top places (again) with Will Spain taking the title, and Sarah O'Neil putting in an impressive performance to be first woman back. The halves Alco was won by Ian Webb of OUOC, who seemed to be the only orienteer who managed to work out what nasty things Chris had done to the map to make the course more 'interesting'!
Back in Cambridge later that evening was the social, with the meal in a 'contemporary' curry house and then on to the River Bar for the social afterwards where prizes were awarded and bottles (or half bottles) of wine duly downed. Many thanks to Chris and Jon for putting in so much time planning and organising the event. I hope everyone who came down for it enjoyed the event - see you all again next year! :)