One hurdle too far

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The Oxford University Blues men’s and women’s teams were both narrowly defeated in the 136th Athletics Varsity on Saturday. The men’s team were very unfortunate not to win their match, with a contentious decision in the 4x100m relay proving the difference between victory and defeat. The teams had two competitors in each event, and points were assigned to where each finished. At the end of the day the team with the most points are crowned champions.

In sunny conditions at the Roger Bannister Track, Oxford’s men began very brightly in the field, winning every event except for the pole vault. Captain Alex Skouby cleared most of his heights in the high jump competition on the third attempt, but eventually won with a clearance of 1.90m. In the long jump Andrew Bullimore jumped 6.70m to take the competition by just one centimetre. In the throws ex-New Zealand decathlon champion Pete Cox won the discus, javelin and shot put despite having an injured Achilles tendon. His success was backed up by Canadian Jeff Piercy winning the hammer competition.

The Oxford success continued into the middle distance events. In this year’s mile event Andy Hayes produced a stunning performance to win in 4 minutes 9 seconds about 50 metres ahead of his nearest competitor. In the 5000m Oxford also took victory through Luke Caldwell in what incredibly was his first competitive run at the distance.
Unfortunately for the dark blues the sprints proved their downfall. Cambridge took first and second place in the 100m, 200m and 400m – the latter being won by Louis Persent in a very impressive time of 46.72 seconds, only marginally off the meeting record.

Cambridge also had the better of the hurdles, and the better of the luck. Oxford’s Josh Gilbert tore his hamstring clearing the fourth hurdle, but despite his agony managed to take third place from a struggling Cambridge athlete.

The competition moved into the final events of the day – the relays – with the everything still hanging in the balance. The Oxford team were disqualified for a faulty change in the 4x100m leaving Cambridge to romp home to victory in the race and the competition as a whole. The race officials however failed to spot a faulty Cambridge change in the race that was noticed by many spectators (and even admitted by members of the Cambridge squad). If both teams had been disqualified the dark blues would have taken the victory. Hence, they were feeling understandably aggrieved.

In the women’s event Oxford were also beaten, but were able boast some more excellent individual performances exemplified by Captain Clara Blattler who took victory in the pole vault, 400m hurdles and was also part of the winning 4x100m squad. In the throws Beth Staniland returned from retirement following a series of knee operations to take victory in the discus, with Susan Hedge and Hannah Hogben also successful in the field. Cambridge were again superior in the sprinting events, taking first place in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
Despite the apparent lack of success on offer from both teams, there’s no doubt that after last year’s humiliating defeat to Cambridge, the dark blues can take solace from some very impressive individual performances and a fantastic team spirit across the side. The teams will be confident this can see them through for the rest of the season and that they can take their revenge back in Cambridge next year.

 

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