The warm and sunny weather created an extra buzz in the air at the 150th staging of the Oxford versus Cambridge Varsity match at the Sir Roger Bannister Track, Iffley Road on 17th May 2014. The event is the 140th meeting of the clubs and the 150th year since it was first contested.
Led by captain Adam McBraida’s three individual victories, Oxford’s men romped to a five point victory over their light blue Fenland rivals, with McBraida and Sam Trigg awarded the Achilles and Le Touquet trophies respectively. However, Cambridge won the women’s match with a convincing 110-89 victory.
The men’s match had been tipped to be a close tussle and it did not disappoint, proving to be an exciting ding dong battle between the dark and light blues all the way through what is the oldest athletics match in the world.
Although arguably the most outstanding individual event performance went to Cambridge’s BUCS hammer champion Michael Painter with a match record throw of 61.13m, few could fault McBraida’s sterling effort, not only in terms of his own 100, 200, 200H and relay victories, but also for generating an inspired team performance.
Perhaps McBraida’s only disappointment came from having to settle for silver behind teammate Craig Morten in the 400H. However, leading his team to victory for the first time since 2008 will, without doubt, have far outweighed what could only ever have been considered a minor blip, as Morten is an equally talented 400 hurdler and also a good friend and teammate.
George Gundle and club president Ralph Eliot came one-two in the 400, setting respective lifetime bests of 48.27 and 49.29 respectively; both athletes under the Blues time. Therefore, it was of little surprise that the BUCS silver medallist 4×400 team of Gundle, Eliot, Morten and McBraida combined to take a convincing relay victory.
Trigg, aka ‘Triggster’, meanwhile, more than rose to the occasion in the horizontal jumps, proving that he is an excellent choice to attempt to fill McBraida’s shoes as men’s captain next year. Trigg set PBs in both long jump and triple jump (7.22m and 15m respectively), but in arguably one of the highest quality events of the day, he had to settle for silver behind his Cambridge rival Matt Houlden.
Other highlights on the men’s side included an exciting sprint finish from Tom Frith to win the 800, a 65.20m javelin victory for GB Junior International Aiden Reynolds, Alex Howard winning the steeplechase and a 110H win for Ismaila Ngum.
However, in terms of sportsmanship, the steeplechase will remembered for other reasons. Kiwi athlete Tom Quirk ruptured his Achilles on the penultimate lap, only to hobble round the final lap with the help from one of the Cambridge athletes in order to earn his point for the team.
The women’s competition was dominated by Cambridge with president Helen Broadbridge setting a new match record in the hammer with 50.13m and captain Alice Kaye doing likewise with 56.11 in the 400m.
Oxford victories were few and far between, but Montana Jackson (Oxford) took the 400H and triple jump, the latter with a leap of 11.43m to earn her Blue, whilst Christina Nick won the shot and discus, also in possession of the Blues standard. Rose Penfold and Sarah McCuaig went 1-2 in the 800, Emily Stone took the 100H, whilst multi-talented netballer Charlie Warwick took the javelin.
By Emily Moss