With 2022’s defeat now in the past, the team showed up to Wilberforce Road ready for a day of high quality competition, and with a strong team of BUCS medallists and finalists, recent OUAC-all time performers, freshers and familiar faces alike what a day of athletics it was looking to be.
The day started off strong on the track with a win for Charlotte in the 400m hurdles, backed up by Sammy in second to bring the first (but definitely not the last!) 1-2 of the day. Cambridge, however, swiftly retaliated in the 800m by taking the top two from Catherine and Ella, arguably very much aided by having an Olympian racing for them. This was not a problem for the team though, because off the track returning varsity record holder and captain Phoebe was taking the hammer by storm with a win by nearly 16m, followed by Viv who was second in a PB distance.
Next up was the 100m, with Natalie taking a clear win despite being a 400m runner and Danielle taking second in a new PB. Not to be outdone by the dark blues, the Tabs pulled out a clean sweep in the long jump despite strong performances from Maddie and Julia. Over in the pole vault Iris-Mae took third whilst Clara, despite being a cross country runner and pole vaulting for the first time in her life, attempted to make it over the bar but just missed out.
Back on the track, Alex S cruised to second in the 5000m in the first race of her long distance double, alongside Lizzy in fourth. Shortly after which the hurdles domination continued with a 1-2 for Julia and Sammy in the 100m hurdles as they both took on their second event of many events of the day. Someone who was also not content with just one race was the Tabs’ Olympian-in-resident Louise Shanahan who came back for more in the 400m and took the win but behind her Catherine and Charlotte, also in their second races of the day, produced some fast 400s to claim 2nd and 3rd. Next up in the steeplechase, Lauren ran a huge PB to get second and Christiana backed it up with third.
Continuing her winning streak, despite only being a fresher and still not competing in her usual event, Natalie flew to a big win in the 200, with Ella in second. The Oxford 1-2s didn’t stop there as over in the discus, Chimdi easily cleared the blues standard to take the win with Eleanor close by in 2nd. Clearly concerned at the growing number of Oxford 1-2s, the Tabs paid back with a 1-2 in the high jump, with Maddie and Amelia in 3rd and 4th. Not long back after the discus win, Chimdi was back to her winning ways in the shot with yet another throw over a blues standard, with Viv also back for her second event.
In the 1500m, Alex S ran under the blues standard to take 2nd with Nancie just behind her in 4th against a stacked field where both Cambridge athletes were past England and GB age group internationals. In the javelin, another 2nd place came from Eleanor in a new 600g PB whilst Alex S demonstrated the never-ending list of her abilities by attacking the javelin straight after the 1500. At this point the rough calculations on programmes were suggesting a tight finish between the two teams, but yet another 1-2 from Julia and Sammy in the 200m hurdles put dark blue victory in sight as the relays approached. But there was no time for complacency as the not-so-small task of safely getting the baton round the relays still remained.
First up was the 4x100m consisting of Eniola, Iris-Mae, Natalie and Danielle; who unsurprisingly after a clean sweep in the 100m flew round the track to take the win by nearly a second. Next up it was the turn of the 4x400m and the recent BUCS 4x4 medallists and OUAC record holders (Natalie, Ella, Catherine and Charlotte) were up. Even with the win all but confirmed it was not the time to be slacking as the 31 year old varsity record was on the line. Despite one slightly questionable changeover the baton flew round safely in a new varsity record of 3:53.7 and sealed the victory for the dark blues to round up a fantastic day of athletics.
Result: Oxford 109, Cambridge 102
Women’s Seconds: Millipedes vs Alligators
Due to illness and injury, the small team size meant much of the team weren’t far from completing a pentathlon each but that didn’t stop the Millipedes from going from strength to strength throughout the day, and only narrowly losing out on victory to Cambridge.
The day was started off strong with a win from Eliska in the 400m hurdles in her first ever 400mh race, which backed up by Rachel in third. Sadly the winning streak was not long lasting, with Cambridge taking the win in the 800m in a IInds match record (albeit with some dubious last minute team changes) but there were strong dark blue performances from Anna and Anika, with Anna running a SB despite being ill! Over in the hammer, Sophia M took third in her first ever hammer competition, and Freya took 4th after returning from a 6 year athletics hiatus (evidently the draw of varsity athletics was just too big!). At this point in the day, Cambridge were appearing fairly dominant with another 1-2 in the long jump with Sophie B in 3rd and Eniola in 4th.
Not long at all after the long jump, Eniola was able to get pay back on the Tabs with a stunning victory by half a second in the 100m, backed by Charlotte K in third. Another dark blue victory was quickly claimed by Liv in the 5000m alongside Lucy T who was fresh (or perhaps not-so-fresh) from a rapid performance in the London Marathon only a couple of weeks prior. Following this winning trend, Lucy B smashed the pole vault, taking the win by jumping 30cm higher than the next person and as both her and Sophia ticked off another event off their very long list. Clearly not content with just one win, Lucy B then took the victory in the 100m hurdles with Freya in 4th.
Cambridge continued to fare well in the throws, taking the sweep in the discus despite strong efforts from Sophia M and Anezka. On the track in the 400m, Eliska put a stop to a minty blue 1-2 with 2nd place followed by Sophie R in 4th. Anika returned for the second part of the more unusual 800-steeplechase double, to easily see off the Cambridge competition with a spectacular win by more than 30s with Rachel also completing her second race of the day in 4th.
Off the track in the shot put Sophia M was back once more, and unfazed by the growing list of events under her belt, threw to 2nd place, where alongside her Freya was equally unfazed by the fact she was throwing a 4kg shot in competition for the first time. Next up Eniola and Sophie R were back for the 200, with Eniola flying to 2nd in a big, but sadly wind-assisted, PB. Another 2nd place for the dark blues was then grabbed by Liv in the 1500m with Alana taking 4th. This string of Cambridge victories, was short lived however, with a big Oxford 1-2 from Sophie B and Lucy B in the triple jump, followed by yet another victory for Lucy B in the 200m hurdles alongside Eliska who took third. Sophia M and Eniola were up next in the javelin, with Sophia M securing yet another win for Oxford.
After a dark blue resurgence in the afternoon the gap between the two teams had been closing rapidly, and now all that was left was the relays. The 4x100 team of Charlotte K, Julia, Jewel and Sophie R had a cracking run to easily take victory from the tabs, not that it was needed as their minty-blue counterparts appeared to struggle with getting the baton round safely and ended up with a DQ. As with the 4x100, the 4x400 team (Nancie, Sammy, Eliska and Anna) were miles apart from Cambridge, taking the win by just under 10s to wrap up a successful day for the dark blues. Sadly, the incredible effort and impressive performances from the team wasn’t quite enough to take victory from Cambridge, but the huge versatility and strength of the team means the future is undoubtedly dark blue.
Result: Millipedes (Oxford) 102, Alligators (Cambridge) 106
As the sun shone down and the outline of the letters OUAC were being burnt into my upper arm, the first event on the track for the men’s Blues was the 400m hurdles. This being the earliest race of the day was really spoiling us. Running for Oxford we had Maranga Mokaya, fully recovered from a confident win in the event during April’s Achilles Transatlantic Series, and Marco Siniscalchi, making his individual outdoor debut for this season following his impressive opening leg for our BUCS 4x400m bronze medal-winning squad. Once the race was underway the livestream needed a wide-angle lens to show the Cambridge hurdlers in the shot; Mokaya strode to an exceedingly impressive new match record in 51.96 while Siniscalchi comfortably secured the Oxford 1-2.
Hurdles dismantled; the next race was the 800m. This race also featured a BUCS medallist in Cambridge’s Angus Harrington, who had won gold in a time of 1:50.67. Cambridge’s other representative was the comparatively diminutive figure of the BUCS semi-finalist Adam Dray. It was clear that Oxford’s Tom Barrett, fresh from an almost 3-second PB in the BUCS heats (1:56), and Jabez Magomere had quite a challenge ahead of them if they wanted to unseat their opponents. Harrington powered ahead while Dray took advantage of the slipstream. Barrett and Magomere both put in valiant performances, but were not quite able to better their Cambridge counterparts.
The 100m was almost a rematch of last year’s Varsity, with 3 of the same athletes again going head to head, with Oxford’s Jake Watson and Orlando Bell and Cambridge’s Chizute Ogbedeh, alongside the fresh face of Satoki Shimamune. Ogbedeh claimed the bragging rights in last year’s iteration with a win over Watson by just two hundredths of a second, yet this year saw the result reversed. Watson not only achieved a (slightly wind-assisted) PB but also a Varsity record in a time of 10.59 (!) to Ogbedeh’s 10.85. Bell also ran his fastest all-conditions time in 11.14 for third.
With a slight change in pace we were then onto the 3000m steeplechase. Testament to both universities’ impressive BUCS haul, this was the first race of the day which did not feature a 2023 BUCS medallist; Cambridge’s Terry Fawden had to make do with placing fourth at Sportcity the previous weekend. This was, perhaps, a guaranteed win for the tab, yet despite not recording an official steeplechase time before this year, Oxford’s Tom Renshaw finished only 11 seconds behind. Matthew Kunov made this an Oxford 2-3, breaking the 10 minute barrier, easily ahead of Cambridge’s Neil Ibata.
The barriers were quickly wheeled off the track and replaced with the high hurdles for the 110mH. Our Will Parry was a little too eager to jump these hurdles and so jumped the gun instead, yet this didn’t put off Marco Siniscalchi in his second performance of the day who won the event almost a second ahead of the best-placed Cambridge athlete in a time of 15.38, below the Blues standard for the second year on the trot.
It was now Mokaya’s turn to put in a return to the track in the flat 400, alongside captain Sam Nelson. For Cambridge, both Harrington and Dray were returning from their 800 1-2 to try their hand at some sprinting. A bystander may be forgiven for thinking that Mokaya was almost given a run for his money by Harrington, both showing a sub-49 clocking, but Mokaya was ‘only doing what he needed to do.’ It was tight between Nelson and Dray with only two tenths separating them, though Nelson’s 50.93 did put him ahead of the tab.
The 1500m was the next event on the track. This was a less tactical affair than might usually be expected for the discipline, with Cambridge’s BUCS silver medallist Jeremy Dempsey attacking the race from the start in the hope of achieving a new match record, although it was not to be this time around. The Oxford delegation of Miles Weatherseed and Matt Fuller was the same as for the mile at last year’s Varsity and engaged in a tough battle with the other Cambridge runner, with barely a second separating the three. In the end, Weatherseed came up trumps with Fuller just missing out on third place by four tenths.
Jake Watson was in action again for his second race of the day in the 200m, alongside Alfie Cicale, brought out of athletics hibernation for his second Varsity. The Cambridge pair did not stand a chance against this formidable duo; albeit with an illegal +2.4 headwind, Watson ran a 200 faster than he ever had before, finishing in 21.70, with Cicale coming second with a time of 22.49. Cicale’s time was only marginally quicker than what he delivered last year (22.52), demonstrating useful consistency.
For the next track event, the distance remained the same, but the hurdles were brought out for the third time. The well-rested Will Parry lined up alongside Adam Coates and the Cambridge runners Oli Hector and Alex Harper. This was a simple 1-2 for Coates and Parry, with the former making his Varsity 200mH debut and running an impressive 25.54, swiftly followed by Parry’s 27.39, almost a second quicker than his performance at last year’s Varsity.
The 4x100 looked to be ours on paper given our dominance in the 100 and the 200, and a strong team consisting of Lemuel Crentsil, Watson, Bell and Cicale. Our quartet did better that of Cambridge, but it was a close-run race: 42.50 to 42.84, illustrating how a team cannot rely on pure speed alone! From pure speed to pure endurance, the two relays were punctuated by the 5000m. Joe Morrow paced his run very similarly to his BUCS B-final win, recording a time just a second slower in 14:47, while Tom Wood ran a solid 15:07, yet neither were able to disrupt a Cambridge 1-2.
With that result, it became clear that the result of the match was to be decided by the 4x400. Fortunately for us, our BUCS bronze medal-winning team left us with little worry, bar the possibility of a dodgy changeover, yet the experience of our squad (Siniscalchi, President Rushworth, Nelson and Mokaya) ensured the baton got round 4 laps in a speedy 3:20, ensuring the victory of the men’s Blues match.
For the men’s field, the first event to get underway was the men’s hammer. A consistent and impressive series from Cambridge’s Peter Cassidy, culminating in a throw of 56.67m, and his teammate Marley Young (45.62m) saw a CUAC 1-2. However, the Oxford pair of Stewart Humble and Joel Bell both threw well. Humble threw a PB of 35.51m (twice!), as did Bell (34.30m).
The hammer result contrasted with a whitewash of the Cambridge team in the pole vault (or should that be a bluewash?). In rather better conditions than his BUCS silver the previous weekend, the indomitable Watson only entered the competition with a vault more than a metre higher than that at which the Cambridge vaulters had bowed out! The Oxford 1-2 was confirmed with a single vault (and clearance) by Mudith Jayasekara at 3.20m. He did not attempt to vault any higher; the job was done.
The long jump was a closer affair. A sixth round jump of 6.51m by vice-captain Coates earned him second place, only 10cm behind Cambridge’s first-placed jumper and a season’s best, but not quite matching his 6.80m jump from last year’s Varsity. Oliver Bazin was not quite able to clinch third place, but his 6.00m jump was also a considerable season’s best and a large improvement on his performance at outdoor BUCS.
The 2-4 result in the long jump was also replicated in the high jump. A clearance at 1.85m saw second place go to Ayman El Amrani, narrowly missing out on improving his 1.88m from indoor BUCS earlier this year. Christopher Everett ended up being unlucky with his jumps, entering the competition at a height of 1.70m, not entirely unreasonable given his previous best performance of 1.89m, yet was not able to clear the bar and so did not record a height.
The javelin saw the involvement of our second BUCS field medallist in Michael Allison, another athlete to adopt the approach of ‘doing what’s needed’. His winning throw of 52.09m was nearly 20m shy of his PB and silver-winning throw of 70.53m achieved at BUCS days earlier, yet was easily sufficient to win the event. His best throw was not too distantly followed by that of Rowan Burford who threw 49.39m, ahead of the 45- and 41-metre throws of the Cambridge contingent.
The final jump event of the day, the triple jump, saw Cambridge recycle their long jumpers while we showed our depth by involving some fresh athletes. The Cambridge strategy worked in part, with Zaphiris achieving a second win with a singular jump of 14.34m in the first round, but our Anthony Akinwale and Jimi Fafowora ensured an Oxford 2-3 with jumps of 13.41m and 13.27m respectively. Akinwale’s jump mirrored that at least year’s iteration (13.43m) while Fafowora’s was a slight betterment on last year’s 13.11m.
Joel Bell swapped the hammer for his perhaps preferred discus for the next field event, securing second place behind Cambridge’s Marley Young with a throw of 43.66m, a slight improvement on his PB of 43.54m from last May. James Tufnell was not quite able to clinch third over Mere of Cambridge, but could not be too disappointed as three of his four throws were further than his previous 32-metre PB, peaking at 35.97m.
Bell then returned again for the shot, throwing another PB of 13.04m, an improvement on his previous best of 12.82m from last year’s Varsity, and enough for second place behind the better of the two Cambridge throwers. Alex Fogassy was not quite able to emulate the trend of PBs, but nicely rounded out the men’s field events with a throw of 11.84m in the first round to finish third place.
Men’s Seconds (Centipedes vs Alverstone)
As with the blues, the day began with the 400m hurdles, featuring Isaac Rushworth in his first event of what were several to come over the course of the afternoon. Running the 400H at Varsity has become a repeat affair for Rushworth, who was able to upgrade last year’s placing to a solid win in a slightly quicker time of 60.46. Matthew Harris was the other half of the Oxford delegation, and this marked the debut in the event for the predominantly middle-distance runner, but was able to secure a 1-3 and an early lead points-wise for the Centipedes. This was somewhat counteracted by the 800m, the next event on the track, as a PB for Matthew Buckley in 2:05 and a 2:07 clocking for Dan Bundred was not quite sufficient for anything other than third and fourth in their race.
David Ojeabulu and Emmanuel Boakye faced their Cambridge counterparts in the first sprint race of the day. The +2.4m/s wind assistance saw some rapid times from both, Ojeabulu recording 11.36s, a hundredth of a second quicker than his time from last Varsity, and Boakye recording 11.57, slightly quicker than his legal PB from BUCS the weekend prior. These times saw Ojeabulu and Boakye provide another Oxford 1-3.
The following event on the track was the 3000m steeplechase, with Oxford’s Jirka Kucera and Joshua Pearson lining up. Both athletes had previously only run this event once before at an official meet, and never before at a Varsity match, and this lack of experience may have proven challenging, with Kucera finishing in third, followed by Pearson in a PB time of 11:19.96. This 3-4 was swiftly followed by a 1-2 in the 110H, with Jean Mégret recording a (wind legal) time of 18.69, very closely followed by 18.95 by John MacGreevy.
Hamstring-related concerns in the warm-up for the 400m saw a last minute substitution on the Oxford side, with our star quarter-miler Ryan Cherian swapping out for James McCulloch. Fortunately this did not hamper the race’s outcome with McCulloch working with Peter Braybrook to achieve an Oxford 1-2 despite a ferocious headwind on the back straight and a pair of very well-matched Cambridge competitors. While the times were slower than their seasons’ bests, this bode well for the 4x400.
Both making their Athletics Varsity debut, Benjy McCartney and Ethan McColgan attacked the race but were ultimately unable to place higher than third and fourth respectively. A brief interlude provided by the women’s steeplechase allowed James McCulloch to recover from his earlier 400 to now take on the 200, alongside Rushworth, who had had slightly longer to catch his breath following the 400H. Despite already exerting themselves in two of the track’s toughest events, they were still able to provide an Oxford 1-3, McCulloch running a 23.25 and Rushworth a 23.61.
There was really no rest for Rushworth as he immediately then took on the next track event, the 200H. The combination of a novel event and tiredness from the preceding races meant he was bested by the other runners, although John MacGreevy was able to upgrade his second place in the 110H to a win in this discipline.
The seconds 4x100 squad was next on the track, comprising Boakye, McCulloch, Parry, and Ojeabulu. Despite a (narrow!) loss to Millfield in the previous week’s Achilles School Relays, this team improved on that time by two seconds to trump the Cambridge quartet, with much smoother baton changeovers. In the succeeding 5000m, we saw an Oxford 2-4 from Alex Bampton (15:31) and Naphtali Moulton (15:51).
Just as in the Blues match, the overall result again relied on that of the 4x400. This is where Oxford’s depth in this event proved invaluable. A strong first-leg run from Braybrook saw Oxford overtake the Cambridge Seconds on the long stagger, and this advantage was extended by Tom Barrett who was also able to overtake the Cambridge Blues. The third and fourth legs from McCulloch and Adam Coates assured victory over Cambridge in the 2023 Seconds match.
Over on the field, the Oxford athletes had a forced to be reckoned with in Cambridge’s Thieme Schmidt, who was even able to out-throw our Blues in the hammer. Yet, the tabs’ other hammer thrower could not show the same force; our Xianming Liu and Yannick Limmer both throwing PBs of 32.69m and 31.61m respectively for an Oxford 2-3.
The tables really were turned against Cambridge in the pole vault. Both our Seconds pole vaulters recorded higher vaults than any of the Cambridge Blues; Jean Mégret and Jirka Kucera (who both also put in shifts on the track) vaulted 3.40m and 3.00m respectively. Over in the long jump pit, Boakye was able to add to his wind-assisted 100m PB with a massive new personal best in this event as well, jumping over 6m for the first time to record 6.12, falling just 2cm short of Cambridge’s Pawel Grab. Boakye was supported by Florentin Schröder, competing for the first time in many years and jumping 5.91m for third. Both are to be reckoned with at next year’s Varsity.
Over by the first bend of the track, Jean Mégret ditched the pole and high-jumped 1.70m, while the preferably horizontal-jumping Ryan Price cleared 1.55m, equally his most recent high jump performance back in 2019. This was high enough for second and fourth, respectively, although Mégret did match the height of one of the Cambridge Blues.
On the other side of the field, our depth in the javelin was then displayed. Ben Holdsworth produced his furthest throw since 2018 to best both of Cambridge’s Blues (47.55m), while Andrew Patton threw 42.01 to also beat one of Cambridge’s Blues and allow an overwhelming victory over Cambridge’s Seconds.
In his more natural habitat, Ryan Price achieved a respectable second in the triple jump, with his 12.42m an improvement on his mark from BUCS. Tim Chan finished fourth, not quite able to deliver his season’s best, but his passing after only two jumps suggests his potential was still to be fully tapped. Full potential was also not quite able to be reached in the men’s shot, with the day finishing off for the Seconds field athletes with third and fourth places respectively for Andrew Patton and Yannick Limmer, throwing 11.00m and 10.10m.