RYAN HARPER: Men win 105-99, women lose 102-97 in a nail-bitigly close Varsity Athletics.
On Saturday, Cambridge University Athletic Club sent a 90-strong team to Iffley Road, Oxford, in a bid to repeat the 4-0 Varsity whitewash of 2011.
The day got off to a perfect start. In the Men’s Blue match, Rhys Hodnett won the Hammer Throw with 46.20m, his maiden blues standard, and Christian Roberts triumphed in the opening track race over 400m Hurdles with a 55.37s season’s best. Matthew Houlden won the Long Jump before Onakeno Mario-Ghae produced the performance of the day in the High Jump. Having to equal his personal best of 1.95m to stay in the competition after Oxford’s jumper took the lead, he then nailed 1.98m, 2.01m and finally 2.04m to rapturous applause.
Jonathan Cook cruised to an effortless victory in the 800m, before facing off, two hours later, in the Mile against Oxford’s Shelley and Frith. He faced stiff competition from experienced runners who hadn’t yet raced that day. In completing the double win for Cambridge, Jon added another chapter to the history of epic Mile races at Iffley Road, and now aims for GB selection in the European Championships to be held in Helsinki in June.
As the afternoon progressed, Oxford tried to mount a comeback. Tom Watkins won the 3000m steeple chase with a personal best, and Matt Houlden, with the wind behind him, set his new personal best to win the Triple Jump. Toby Haseler and David Allwood rounded out the field events with wins in the Shot Put and Discus Throw.
The Men’s Blues match, which had remained finely poised throughout the day, finally went the way of Cambridge by 105 points to 99 after a victory in the 4x100m relay. Oxford were favourites in this race, and had the faster runners on paper, but Amin Ahmadnia, Onakeno Mario-Ghae, Matt Houlden and Ross Elsby had worked on their changeovers for over a month, organising extra training sessions to search for those precious tenths of a second. Make no mistake; those extra tenths were what won us the Varsity Match.
The Women’s Blues Match began with Aussie postgrad Jennifer Lovell, fresh from breaking the CUAC record in the pole vault at BUCS, winning with an outstanding vault of 3.30m. Women’s Captain Rose Penfold led from the front on the track, easing to victory in the 800m. CUAC poster girl Lizzie Thompson had a day to remember winning the Long Jump, Triple Jump and High Jump with new personal bests of 5.08m, 10.67m and 1.55m, as well as coming second in both hurdles races. CUAC’s throws squad leader Helen Broadbridge won the Discus Throw and Hammer Throw comfortably.
Despite winning fewer events overall than their Oxford counterparts, the determination and depth of the women’s blues team was evident in their picking up enough 2nd and 3rd place points throughout the day to keep the competition alive. Heading into the final event, the 4x400m relay, the match still hung in the balance. Despite a storming final leg from Helena Wace, the women’s team was beaten on the line by just a quarter of a second, and they lost the overall match 102-97.
The Men’s Second Team Match was won by Cambridge 109-103, with Felix Schaaf winning the High Jump and Discus Throw. Angus Fitchie won the Javelin Throw with a 48.65m PB – a mark that would’ve been good enough for second place in the Blues match. The Women’s Second Team was beaten 115-85, with Sarah Williams setting a new match record in the Pole Vault with 2.50m.