Dark Blues in Varsity win

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Oxford’s men’s Blues bounced back from defeat in 2007 with some spectacular performances on Saturday to record a tenth win in eleven Varsity outings.

The women were equally impressive, notching up a third consecutive Blues win for the first time ever. Oxford were agonisingly close to repeating their grand slam of 2006, as the Millipedes also won, but the Centipedes narrowly went down 102-108.

The men won the first five events to open a clear lead. Josh Abraham-Steele and Garrett Johnson reigned supreme in the hammer, hurling 46.71m and 45.15m respectively for an Oxford 1-2.

Long jumper Andrew Bullimore responded well to early Cambridge pressure, his 6.81m first round jump a centimetre shy of the Light Blue lead. Refusing to settle for second place, Bullimore showed his class in the final round with a massive 7.01m leap, snatching another crucial victory for the Oxford men.

Alex Skouby showed similar fighting spirit to win the high jump, pulling out a stunning final attempt clearance at 1.95m to win both the competition and his first full Blue.

On track, Danny Eckersley lived up to his billing as favourite over 400m hurdles, his nearest challenger team mate Aaron Mason. Mason fell at the 9th hurdle from 2nd place, but still rose to bravely finish ahead of his Tab rivals.

Richard Hildick-Smith kept Oxford on course with victory over 800m. Leading from the gun, Hildick-Smith relentlessly wound up the pace, pulled away down the back straight, and extended his lead all the way home to win in 1:53.62s.

Hannah Hogben drew first blood for the women, her 39.76m hammer throw winning the event by six metres. On track, OUAC President Sally Hughes fought hard in the 400m hurdles, running a PB and Blues standard time 65.18.

Despite an early lead, she succumbed to Cambride’s Lucy Spray in the home straight. Injured Martine Bomb had to watch her specialist event from the sidelines, but pulled out the gutsiest performance of the day to win the 100m hurdles after only a week back on track, her 15.29s clocking earning Bomb a fourth full Blue.

Women’s captain Steph Madgett joined Frances Smithson in making it an Oxford 1-2 in the Long Jump. Smithson’s 5.63m leap was her first of three wins, as she also secured victories in the high jump (1.66m) and triple jump (11.00m), and third place in the javelin, scoring an unmatched 17 points for the women.

Despite the string of Dark Blue victories elsewhere, Cambridge dominated the short sprints. Only Dominique Smith was able to prevent a Cambridge whitewash. Smith demonstrated her notorious speed out of the blocks, recording a PB 12.76s over 100m, and following it up with a 26.15s 200m, but had to settle for 2nd in both behind the in-form Cambridge Captain Spray.

It was a different story over 400m. As chants of ‘Oxford’ echoed round the track, men’s captain Phil Duggleby and James Morrissey were a class apart, leaving the Tabs far in their wake to record a clear Oxford 1-2 in 50.11s and 50.46s.

Julia Lange showed her class in defeating GB’s Charlotte Roach over 800m in 2:16.74s. Roach had the last word as she reversed the result in the mile, winning in a match record 4:53.60s. Also impressive was Clare Kane as she doubled up over the 800 and Mile for the Millipedes, winning both comfortably.

While the Millipedes’ victory was narrow in points, it was conclusive in records; the Oxford girls racked up three throughout the day. Emily Binner started the spree with a dip finish to win the 400m in 60.03, one second inside the previous best. Gina Hood went on to equal the High Jump record of 1.55m, and Katie Moore shattered the 5000m record, improving it by almost 30 seconds to 17:47.65.

With the match record ball rolling, it was time to step up a gear. Oxford’s Garrett Johnson currently lies 5th in the world rankings for shot put, so it was no surprise to see him launch a 19.94m put to improve the match record by over three metres.

It was Johnson’s second record of the day, following a stunning 55.13m discus throw, metres beyond her previous best.

Bethany Staniland was the unsung heroine of the women’s Blues, winning three events. She was a class apart, taking the discus in 36.33m, the javelin in 35.40m, and shot put in 11.34m. Sean Gourley called time on his glittering Oxford career, winning the javelin for the Centipedes.

Ineligible for Blues after winning four matches, Gourley threw 43.84m to add one final victory to his collection from previous years.
Nick Cook and Matthew Brown also starred for the Centipedes, Cook winning the tough 400m/800m double in 50.83 and 2:01.84. Brown demonstrated his versatility just seven weeks after hanging up his Isis oar to win the 110m hurdles in 16.52s and 200m hurdles in 27.66s.

The most enthralling encounter of the day was the men’s 5000m, as OUCCC Captain Ian Kimpton duelled with CUAC’s James Kelly for every inch of the 12 ½ laps. Inspired by Oxford’s earlier victories in the mile (Richard Franseze) and steeplechase (David Bruce), Kimpton kicked hard at the bell and hung on to smash his PB, winning in 14:45.20s.

Ali Crocker and Marina Johns continued the Oxford distance dominance with a 1-2 finish in the inaugural 2000m steeplechase. This saw Crocker smash her personal best by 13 seconds, winning in 7:10.96s.

The icing on the Dark Blue cake was undoubtedly the men’s 4x400m. The match already safe, the Blues proved they were a class apart, winning by more than eight seconds. More satisfying was seeing the Centipedes quartet beat the Cambridge Blues.

Although the Centipedes narrowly lost their match, they can take huge pride in this blue-ribband victory. Men’s Captain Phil Duggleby reflected on the success, attributing it to hard work throughout the year.

Steph Madgett paid tribute to her team, saying they had ‘run their socks off’ to earn victory.

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