Athletes split the Varsity spoils
Cambridge's athletes go down to the wire at Iffley Road
by Varsity Sport
Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 22:56 BST
While other Blue Riband sports have seen a level playing field in recent years, the Athletics Varsity match has been all light blue, with two consecutive victories for the CUAC women and record wins for the men. However such is the individual nature of athletics that even recent history means nothing, and after some closely fought indoor fixtures it was all to play for at Iffley Road, Oxford.
There were ominous signs in the men’s track. Former Cambridge Captain Mark Dyble led a very strong Oxford sprint squad, winning his 4thvarsity 100m in a row in a time of 10.90s, edging out Amin Ahmadnia of CUAC into 2ndplace. Ross Elsby ran well, placing second in the 200m the 110mH, earning himself a full Blue in the latter event with his time of 15.69s. Oxford also won the 200mH, but were unable to complete their dominance of the sprint events when Caspar Elliot, winner of the 400m, was narrowly beaten by Christian Roberts in a hard-fought 400m hurdles race that encapsulated the day for the Cambridge Mens’ team.
Jon Cooke, who recently ran one of the top 30 800m times in Europe this year, completed the middle distance double – something that hasn’t been achieved in decades. In the mile he faced particularly strong competition from Oxford’s recent BUCS finalist Tom Frith, and the equally impressive Jake Shelley, without a doubt two of Oxford’s strongest athletes.
Elsewhere CUAC had their own BUCS finalists in play, with Tom Watkins easing to victory in the 3000m steeplechase and Matt Houlden scoring points in numerous events. Particularly notable were Houlden’s Long and Triple jump victories, a massive new pb of 14.70m beating his Cambridge compatriot Emmanuel Gbegli’s, own Blues standard 13.98m. The high jump saw a similarly outstanding performance, with Onakeno Mario-Ghae winning with a jump of 2.04m to give Cambridge its first HJ victory since 2007.
Meanwhile the heavy throws were always going to be a banker for Cambridge. Rhys Hodnett threw 46.20m in the Hammer to smash the Blues distance, and win by a commanding distance, while Dave Allword Allwood won the Discus, throwing 40.20m to nudge Cambridge Captain Ryan Harper into second place. In the last field event of the day Toby Haseler retained his shot put title by an imposing margin.
With just the relays to go, the Cambridge men were in the lead, needing to win one race to secure victory. The 4x100 squad made sure, pulling out an incredible team performance. Ahmadnia’s first leg gave Cambridge a commanding lead, which Onakeno Mario-Ghae and Matthew Houlden maintained, with Ross Elsby holding off the strong OUAC comeback the win the race, and with it the match 105-99.
The Cambridge women endured a similarly tight fight, though on this day the Gods were perhaps against them, with Helena Wace controversially disqualified in the women’s the 100m. However, she put this behind her to place second in both the 200m and the 400m, particularly impressive given this was her first 400m race ever.
The 800m saw CUAC captain Rose Penfold and fellow light blue Rebecca Mclean secure a 1-2 by an amazing 15 seconds. Rachel Kitchen, placing second in the mile and Jessica Chen winning the 5km race completed a strong showing for the middle distance athletes.
The 2000m steeplechase, however, was a disappointing affair. National Bronze medallist Polly Keen was crippled by illness, turning a guaranteed Cambridge win into a 2-3 placing, with Jocelyn Trayler-Clarke running solidly to finish second.
As ever, Clara Blattler was a dark blue thorn in the CUAC women’s side, winning both the 100mH and the 400mH despite the best efforts of the noteworthy Lizzie Thompson. In the field, however, Thompson took all three jumping events, with CUAC’s Lucy Crossman taking second place in the high jump.
Cambridge continued to dominate the field when Jen Lovell won the pole vault with a domineering height of 3.30m, and Helen Broadbridge smashed the blues standard to win the hammer competition yet again, adding to her earlier discus victory.
Like the men’s match it came down to the relays, with Oxford needing two wins to take home the trophy. This time Oxford won the 4x100m, and despite an inspirational performance from the Cambridge team in the 4x400m they were beaten on the line, the overall score Cambridge 97-102 Oxford.
Looking to 2013, Cambridge’s women will be looking to bounce back strongly next year. The men, losing only two or three athletes from their squad this year will be looking to continue their winning streak for years to come.