Cambridge ran, threw and jumped their way to a 4-0 clean sweep over Oxford in Saturday’s 139th Athletics Varsity match, in front of a packed crowd at Wilberforce Road.
After suffering overall defeats in Rugby and Rowing, this performance was the perfect repost for light-blue sport, and with conditions more or less perfect there were some superb individual performances to boot – with Cambridge stalwarts Jon Cook and Emma Perkins leading the way. The first half of the Men’s Blues match was a cagey affair between two evenly matched squads, yet from the moment Cook produced an electrifying burst of speed to triumph over 1,500m, Oxford were always slipping behind and the victory (by a final score of 117-93) was never in doubt.
If Cook provided the best accelerated sprint, Tom Neill was the most sustained sprinter on show as he won the 100m and 200m before coming from behind on the last leg to propel the 4x100m Relay team to victory as well. Club President Matt Houlden was another dual winner in the Triple Jump and the Long Jump as he cleared a windy personal best of 7.07m.
Men’s Captain Ross Elsby took two sprinting second-places (behind Neill) before enjoying a win of his own in the 110m Hurdles, while Joe Christopher eased to a fine victory over 5,000m. Elsewhere, Ryan Harper won the Hammer and Keno Mario-Ghae the High Jump, while Toby Haseler (Shot Put) and Quentin Gouil (Pole Vault) led home 1-2 finishes for the Light-Blues. Honourable mentions must also be made for Dion Kramer – who placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th in three hurdles events, for Tom Watkins (pictured), Matt Leach and Justas Dauparas who all finished second with personal best performances, and Lewis Lloyd, who secured double 3rd place in two ultra competitive middle-distance races.
For the women it must be mentioned that of the five medallists at the recent BUCS Championships three were unavailable, but the two who were present, Perkins and Alison Greggor, were predictably dominant with five wins between them.
After easing home to take the High Jump with a best clearance of 1.78metres, Perkins also won the Long and Triple Jumps, while Sarah Williams ensured a jumping clean sweep with victory in the Pole Vault. Greggor won the 5,000m by 12 seconds before outsprinting teammate Katherine Turner to take a thrilling 1,500m as well.
Elsewhere while Oxford’s Nadine Prill took a stunning treble in the 100m, 200m and 400m, Women’s Captain for next year, Alice Kaye was close behind in second place in all three races. Polly Keen enjoyed a 24 second triumph in the 3,000m Steeplechase ahead of teammate Jocelyn Trayler-Clarke, while Katie Sandford broke the 70 second barrier to win the 400m Hurdles. Georgina Howe won the Hammer and came 2nd in the Discus; while Kiara de Kremer (Javelin), Nora Rossberg (800m) and Lucy Crossman (High Jump) were three other runners-up in a 114-86 overall win.
Not to be outdone, Cambridge also won the two second team matches: with the Alverstone’s (Men) winning by 131 points to 80 and the Alligators (Women) by 117.5 to 82.5.
Top performances came from Sylvester Juwe (100m and 200m), David Twigg (Hammer and Discus). There was four out of four wins in the distance events – three of which came in a 1-2 finish, with Will Ryle-Hodges (1,500m) and Matt Grant (3,000m Steeplechase) each showing the superb calibre of Cambridge distance running with times well worthy of Blues selection. For the women, Chidera Ota won the 100m and 200m, Eleanor Flanagon won the High Jump and Long Jump and came 2nd in the triple jump. It was the Cambridge domination on the track however which saw them home as they took eight out of eleven possible wins.
Double winner and CUAC President Matt Houlden was understandably delighted with the result, saying: “I am so proud to have been President of the club this year and this fantastic 4-0 result has been a dream come true, making a year of hard work completely worth it.”
“My highlight of the match was the Men’s Blues 1500m. After some surprise performances by Oxford, the team were way down on our expected points at this stage of the match and team morale was low. Jon Cook, who was due to be missing his final Varsity match due to competing in the Loughborough International the following day, stepped in and saved the day with a resounding win. Despite the fact that the overall point score was such that a win here would not have affected the overall result, the boost in morale was a key turning point and gave us a much needed boost that we could win.”
For the record, Cook came 4th the following day running for England in a tactical 800m at Loughborough, while Hanna Tarver came 6th in the Women’s race.
After dominating the Cross Country and Athletics seasons it is clear that Cambridge track and field has never been in finer fettle, and with faster times still to come over the summer, more of the same can be expected next year.