Freshers Varsity on the 4th November, as it does every year, marked the first opportunity for the new intake of Dark Blues to take on the old enemy and stake their claim to spots in FEAR and Varsity teams later in the season. The outcome was certainly encouraging. The Men’s team won 14 of 18 events to record a comfortable victory, their first since 2007. While the Women were defeated by a strong Cambridge side there were enough good individual performances, especially in the field events, to suggest that could be reversed later in the year.
Oxford’s dominance in the Men’s match was clear from the first track event where Craig Morten stormed to the first Blues standard of the year in the 400 hurdles. Further victories in the 110 hurdles and 400 metres made him a strong contender for Athlete of the Match. Yet he was denied by an even more impressive showing from Aidan Reynolds, fresh off lighting the Olympic flame this summer, who won 4 events and recorded a Match Record in his favoured Javelin to place 4th on the OUAC All Time list. Double wins were also recorded by Andrew Penney, who defied a tough schedule to win the 1500 and 3000 metres while Sam Trigg hinted at an end to Cambridge ownership of the horizontal jumps, coming close to a Blues standard in the Triple Jump after also winning the Long. Alex May and George Gundle sealed a Dark Blue sweep of the sprints in the 100 and 200 metres – Cambridge failing to even take a 2nd place in any sprint. These excellent individual performances were capped off by a series of slick well-rehearsed changeovers resulting in a huge win in the sprint relay.
Although Cambridge won the Women’s match by almost as large a margin as the Oxford men, there were definite bright spots for Oxford. Montana Jackson marked her return to jumping after a long injury lay off by winning the Triple Jump by over two metres and adding the Long Jump in a much closer competition. Helena Copley showed her ability to get over differing obstacles by winning both the sprint hurdles and the High Jump, in a 1-2 with Jackson, while Jenny Richards added the Shot to the Dark Blue column and Maria Harper the Pole Vault. The best performance of the day, however, belonged to Rebecca Simpson who threw the Blues Standard in the Hammer to put herself into the club’s all-time top 10 but was narrowly beaten by a strong Cambridge opponent who also edged out Anna Niedbala in the Discus by less than 60cm. Oxford narrowly won the field events, which bodes well for that section of the FEAR Match, even if they were handsomely beaten by a Cambridge team which broke four match records on the track.
The match as a whole was the highest quality it has been for some years and the results for both men and women being reversed from last year’s Varsity matches suggest that this year will be closely fought on all fronts. Many hard hours at Iffley Road lie ahead if victory is to be secured.
(Thanks to Men’s Captain Dan Hooker for the match report.)