At 8am on the morning of 11th January, a team of 85 Oxford athletes left Iffley road for Lee Valley, with the hopes of a big win against Cambridge. For the first time ever, not only would there be four competitions: women’s field, women’s track, men’s field and men’s track, but there would be an overall winner, decided by which side won the majority of the 28 events. Phoebe and Sam, our captains, had nothing on their minds but winning (and something about Cats in Bags). With a strong intake of freshers this year as seen by the dark blue domination at Fresher’s Varsity, Oxford had a strong team. Just the weekend before however, Cambridge won three medals at BUCS cross country, so it was looking like this was going to be all to play for.
To kick off the day, men’s discus took a solid win. This was followed by the women’s discus where we saw some great throws, with Viv, Phoebe, Grace and Chimdi all doing Coach Lesley proud. Then we had men’s high jump, with Ayman, a once English schools champion, returning to jumping after a hiatus and securing a solid 1.80m. Vice-Captain Adam equalled his PB while Kam Lambert jumped a PB both also at 1.80m. A standout performance from Chris with an excellent 1.85m finished off the Men’s high jump match, showing off an exciting level of depth in the squad. So, if my maths is correct, we were already boasting an promising 3-0 lead.
Next up was women’s triple jump. With a few excellent jumpers on both sides, this was going to be a close one. The women narrowly won, by a margin of just 2m, with some wonderful performances and a couple of PBs for Iris-Mae and Danielle. This was followed by women’s javelin, which was going to be interesting considering not one member of our team was actually a javelin thrower. Alex Shipley, our star 1500m runner, decided she fancied throwing a spear today and threw a fabulous 30.21m to come in second place! Eniola, usually seen competing in the short sprints events, also took to the runway. The team once again just took the victory by a tight margin of 3m.
Meanwhile, outside. Michael Allison launched an enormous throw of 63.88m and a new match record in the javelin, whilst another win in the Men’s shot, put (pun intended) the Dark Blues a resounding 7 events up.
On to the first track event of the day! The women’s 60m hurdles. This was going to be interesting, particularly for Charlotte Buckley, an 800m runner! Exactly one week earlier she was speeding round the BUCS cross country 6km course, and now she is jumping over hurdles as fast as she can. Safe to say Charlotte and the other girls smashed it and brought home, you guessed it, another win. Am I seeing a pattern emerging...?
The men’s 60m hurdles followed, by far the tightest event of the day, however Oxford prevailed – Will, Marco, Nick and Archie got the job done by a mere 0.03 seconds - never in doubt!
We then took to the centre of the track for Women’s pole vault, and despite another excellent PB by Iris-Mae, experienced our first loss of the day. However we bounced back quickly with some fabulous jumps by our triple jumping men, gaining yet another victory.
The track was now well underway, with the 4x800m taking centre stage. Our women’s team consisting of Charlotte, Catherine, Alex and Eliska took a commanding victory with a margin of nearly a minute. Our men’s team however experienced some Covid related issues (in 2023!?), leaving Cambridge to pick up a win by default – quite literally their only win on the men’s side thus far - stat padding merchants. The 60 metres followed, where our women took yet another dominant win, whilst the men were defeated.
Taking a stroll outdoors to the hammer cage, we witnessed another FEAR record with Pheobe demolishing her own record, with 54.17m, leading the team to a commanding win.
Back on track, the 4x400m provided another 2 wins for Oxford, with club president Isaac anchoring the men’s team in his annual race for the year. The 4x200m followed, where the women’s team of Nancie, Catherine, Natalie and Issy closed out a narrow win, yet on the men’s side, despite pipping a strong Cambridge team on the line, we were unfortunately disqualified – seems to me like Cambridge can only win when we don’t put in a team…
With only a few events to go, the match was all but over, and another win in the women’s shot, courtesy of Chimdi, Viv, Sophia and Grace, and a win in the men’s Pole Vault, headlined by Nick, put the result beyond all doubt.
The crowds began to gather for the final event of the day – the DMRs (Distance Medley Relay). With the men’s middle distance squad sadly absent again Cambridge cruised to pick up a rare win, however, the women completed their clean sweep on the track, obliterating a lacklustre Cambridge team.
The match was over and the result never in doubt – a fantastic day of athletics headlined by match records, inspirational speeches, and Oxford dominance. The final score: 20-8. Lee Valley is Dark Blue.