It was a mixed day for Oxford University Cross Country Club, who normally are seen charging up and down the hill in South Parks, when they travelled to face the Tabs at Wimbledon Common. Wimbledon Common represents a diverse challenge for the Cross Country athletes who, over the seven and a half mile course, must contend with hills, mud, flat stone paths, a water splash and the infamous ‘butts’ obstacle. This would be a tough challenge for any runner, but the Oxford Cross Country Club have been training for what is certainly the pinnacle of their season.
In the 125th running of the Varsity race, it was the Blues Men who took the title for the 63rd time in their history to make it 63-62 in the overall standings, meaning that whilst this is perhaps one of the less prominent of the Varsity matches, it is almost certainly one of the most even, with no side dominating overall. It is that fact that puts the importance of this win in perspective, with Oxford winning 55-27, the widest winning margin since Cambridge’s in 1995. The Dark Blues also completed the first 1-2-3-4 cleansweep since 1993 when Miles Unterreiner, William Christofi, Alexander Howard and Jamie Parkinson left the opposition runners in their dust, running the races of their lives.
Unfortunately the tables were turned in the women’s race, where Cambridge won 38-23 and took the individual title as well. Strong performances from Sophia Saller and Bethanie Murray, placing second and third respectively, provided the Dark Blues with a reason to celebrate, but with the Light Blues occupying places four through to nine in the race results, their effort was just not quite enough.
The week before, it was a tale of redemption for the rest of the Oxford Cross Country teams, who last year had lost 5-0 to Cambridge in the IIs-IVs Varsity to bounce back and comprehensively win this year’s event 3-1. The men’s IIs, IIIs and IVs emerged victorious on home soil at Shotover, while the women’s IIIs were narrowly defeated. Oxford’s victories were underpinned by outstanding individual performances, notably those of Joe Selley, Dan Mulryan and Cameron Taylor, who made up the top three of the men’s IIs.Further Oxford domination was secured by Toby Clyde, Miles Weatherseed and Michael Constante in the men’s IIIs.
Those paying close attention will notice the missing result from the Ladies’ IIs race. Although won by Oxford on paper, it was nullified after representatives from the opposing clubs could not resolve a dispute surrounding the race’s contentious circumstances. A Cambridge runner leading the race deviated from the course on the last lap and subsequently did not finish the race. Cambridge blamed a marshalling error and maintained that they could have won the overall race had their runner, far ahead of the field, continued. This does not take the gloss off five Oxford runners finishing in the top seven, making the weekend a triumph for OUCCC, who look forward to training hard for their string of Hilary fixtures.