Cambridge whitewashed in 143rd Athletics Varsity at Wilberforce Road

Wilberforce Road - the home of Cambridge University Athletics and venue for Sunday's Varsity races Image credit: © Copyright Hugh Venables and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Despite some very tight scores and excellent performances across the board, Cambridge found themselves on the receiving end of a 4-0 loss to their Oxford counterparts.

It was the first time in over 10 years that none of the four teams that make up the general classification failed to record a single victory in their category. Nevertheless, this method of scoring suggested a dominance that perhaps slightly flattered the athletes in dark blue. Less that twenty points separated the women's second team and the men's first team, whilst the women's first team could scarcely have come closer to removing the gloss from the whitewash, losing out 98 points to 102 in an agonising finish. 

However, it was Cambridge who put down an early marker with the men's hammer throw, the first event of the morning. The duo of Tom Parker and Jacob Lange proved far too strong for their opponents, at one point throwing almost twice their distance. With the result a mere formality, attention turned to which of the two Cambridge men would come out on top, an accolade eventually won by Parker thanks to a remarkable 61.41m effort. 

Proceedings continued in much the same fashion for the first hour. Elliott Baines broke his PB twice in a row to ease Cambridge towards victory in the men's long jump before Caroline Hilley broke the first Varsity record of the day as she smashed out a 61.67 as the Light Blues recorded a one-two finish in the 400m hurdles. Hilley was not done for the day, however, as she went on to record another stellar performance in the 100m hurdles, crossing the line 5m ahead of her nearest competitor. Unfortunately, the second teams did not fare as well, losing out to their Oxford counterparts in both events, despite Daisy Irving-Hyman and Laura Cook taking silver and bronze respectively in the hurdles.

Things were about to take a turn for the worse, however, as the Light Blues found themselves up against some very tough competition in the 800m races. Wielding a French international athlete and a previous BUCS semi-finalist in their arsenal, Oxford may have expected an easy victory in these events – yet this was not the case. Ella Witts, who entered the race in top form on the back of a strong season rewarded by a recent PB of 2:22.9, teamed up with Felicity Williamson-Sarll to ensure a very tight finish to their race, whilst the men's 800m ended in controversial circumstances as an Oxford athlete appeared to cut the final corner as he tried to overtake the Light Blues.

However, the Light Blues readjusted the balance at the half-way point with resounding victories in the 100m sprints and men's high jump. Whilst Tiwa Adebayo breezed into first place in her sprint, Kaesi Opara had to await the results of the photo-finish before he could celebrate his. Much like Parker and Lange beforehand, the high jump turned into an internal competition between two Cambridge athletes, namely Gunther Klobe and Ethan Sorrell. Both put in admirable performances as they cleared 1.85m, yet it was high jump captain Ethan Sorrell that went one step better, leaping above the 1.90 barrier to secure the bragging rights for the year.

Just as Cambridge had pulled themselves back right back into proceedings, a series of silver medals after lunch saw Oxford race away again. Looking for his second victory of the day, Elliott Baines quite literally fell at the last hurdle as an Oxford athlete pounced to snatch the win. The Light Blues then found themselves pipped to the post in the 400m – arguably the closest event of the day – whilst Joe Burton could only strike silver in the 2nd's race. Special mention must however be reserved for Caroline Hilley, who, unfatigued by her earlier efforts, lined up once again to power to victory in the Blues 400m race.

Indeed, the women's teams continued to record some impressive victories as Rebecca Moore took pole position in the 5000m and Catriona Marriott had a strong second half to cross the line first in the 200m. However, the men began to slip behind, despite a silver medal for Phil Crout in an unusual 1500m race where a slow opening section intensified into a frenzied sprint over the final 300m. Likewise, a strong opening section from Callum Court was not enough to secure victory in the 4x100m relay, and the Light Blues were even more unlucky in the 5000m event as a late kick from an Oxford runner clinched victory despite Cambridge leading for the majority of the 12.5 laps.

Though Cambridge won the final events of the day – the women's and men's 4x400m races – it was not enough to secure any overall victories in a bitterly frustrating day for the Athletics Club. However, there were a spate of fantastic individual performances on show, particularly from three-time winner Caroline Hilley and Kaesi Opara, who received his blue after adding to his 100m title with victory in the 200m.

In truth, Oxford had a particularly strong team out this year, with several athletes breaking records in events earlier in the year. Indeed Jacob Lange, captain of the men's 2nd team, was magnanimous in defeat yet hopeful for the future:

"It wasn't the result we wanted, but they beat us fairly on the day. We have lost a lot of our more senior members in the men's team from last year and it is always going to be hard pulling out big performances in your first Varsity. With time and experience our team will improve dramatically – next year will be a completely different result."

Source: Bluebird

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