OA 2024 Issue 05



OA CROSS COUNTRY It was a beautifully sunny afternoon in September on Wimbledon Common as the gun went to release some 200 runners onto the alumni five-mile cross country course. The track season had barely finished and yet here we were racing over parkland and through woods that had not seen rain for weeks. It was certainly not traditional cross-country weather, although few present seemed to miss the mud and freezing conditions associated with the usual pre-Christmas December date. With eight OAs starting, our team was the largest for many years, with a considerable mix of youth and experience. It is particularly encouraging that the average age of the team was also the youngest in years. Team Captain Jerry Watson (71–78) once again travelled down from Leeds for the event, which he has supported for well over 30 years. Despite having had his training disrupted by injury, he completed the course in a very respectable 43 minutes, coming home in 142nd place. He was joined by Thomas (05–16, 138th) and Luca Franchi (09–20, 163rd), both new to the event. They finished with broad grins on their faces so the expectation is that we shall see them both again next year! Transport on the day in South West London was appalling, with local roadworks, District Line closures and a dearth of Route 85 buses, but that did not stop latecomers Chris McKeon (01–08, 146th) and Vinod Verma (91–96, 172nd) throwing on their OA vests and chasing the pack into the woods. Top-placed finisher on the day was Angus Fraser (08–18), who cantered home in a very respectable 44th position. Not far behind was Francis Aznaran (07–14, 67th), with David Gibson (89–94, 122nd) completing the OA line up. The impressive turnout directly impacted the overall team result and this year we finished an impressive 14th in the team competition – some nine places higher than 12 months ago. If you want an excuse to get fit over the summer of 2024, keep an eye on the OA e-bulletins for next year’s date. It is never too late to join a successful team.

The Old Alleynian Association Football Club (OAAFC) continues to go from strength to strength. The 2023/24 season is its 10th since its inception, and it is worth reiterating the progress made in this time. We began with one team, selecting from a tiny pool of 15 OAs and playing a handful of friendlies against the College’s 1st XI before entering the bottom tier of the Arthurian League (which consists solely of alumni of independent schools). Our first five years saw us consecutively win Divisions 5 to 1 and gain entry into the Premier Division. Today we are highly respected by all the teams we play and are regularly in contention to win the Premiership. A little over two years after the launch of the first team, a 2nd XI followed and then three years later a 3rd XI, both of whom have won titles and promotions. Now every week some 40 OAs grace pitches across London in our famous blue and black shirts, and well over 100 different players have been involved in the journey so far. The 2023/24 season comes off the back of a terrific summer, where the club went on its second international tour to Barcelona. Some wonderful football was played and we returned home with two impressive wins. We also held a hugely successful inaugural inter-club tournament, with each team representing a different year group. Nearly 70 players turned up at the College on one of the hottest Sundays in August for an event that we hope will only grow and allow us not only to identify new talent but also to help raise funds for the club. Since the start of the season, the momentum has continued and every side has had a tremendous start. Heading into the Christmas break, it is fair to say that all three sides have everything to play for, with cup and league success the expectation. While the Arthurian League is very competitive, and the standard of football very high across the board, we remain committed to our goal of providing well-organised and fun football for OAs of any age and ability. Our training sessions on Wednesdays regularly include players born in four different decades – a Vets XI is our next area of expansion! More broadly, the OAAFC is in a healthy position. Our links with the College continue to strengthen, as demonstrated by our annual fixture at Dulwich in January where we now put out four sides to play against the students. We have also been very fortunate to have even greater access to the wonderful facilities at the College, with increased use of the all-weather 4G pitch for matches and training during school holidays. We have taken steps to grow the influence our club can have, as older members look to assist and guide younger members with their careers – something we have started to formalise this year. We benefit hugely from the great support of the OA Association, and feel we are becoming an ever more valuable member of the Old Alleynian community. George Edmund (08-15), Secretary OAAFC

PARKRUN While not everyone can make it down to Wimbledon for the annual cross country race, you may be one of the many OAs who takes part in your local parkrun on a Saturday morning. If so, think about adding ‘Old Alleynian Runners’ to your ‘Groups’ profile. Not only will this allow us to build a virtual community of OA runners, but we can also look to target events where OAs could meet up for a quick (or not so quick) 5K followed by an informal coffee, as happened earlier in the year when half a dozen OAs ran the Dulwich parkrun.

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