On a blustery Sunday in November, the newest additions to Cambridge University Athletic Club (CUAC) took on their O*ford counterparts in the annual Freshers’ Varsity Match at Wilberforce Road. All competing had never competed in a Varsity Match against O*ford before, the majority being first years new to the University.
The day’s events started auspiciously for the men, with Peter Simon securing victory in the opening 400m Hurdles; in the women’s running of the longest distance of hurdles, maximum points went to the Dark Blues. Over the course of the day, things would improve significantly for the women but worsen for the men.
A barnstorming performance in the 100m from Moriyo Aiyeola, running 12.7 seconds on a windy day, set the tone for the rest of the Match; she was soon followed by Nancy Scott and Maybritt Schillinger, who secured a 1,2 in the 3000m. The early field events too went the way of the Light Blues, Johanna Schoenecker and Jennifer Sheasby comfortably took the top two spots in the pole vault. Even when Dark triumphed over Light, the margins were tight: in the long jump Mary Adeniji lost out to her O*ford opponent by a mere centimetre, with Heather Muir only a further centimetre behind.
For the Light Blue men, opposition came chiefly in the form of O*ford’s Leif van Grinsven. The American decathlete was the source of much frustration for Cambridge Men’s Captain James Coxon and the team he had assembled for the Match. Van Grinsven is only in England for a single term, and is ineligible for Easter’s Varsity Match. The American took first place for O*ford in not one, but four events. CUAC fielded its own American debutant, Austin Puleo, who answered only as he knows how, returning fire with victory in both the 200m and 400m.
Blues Standards are notoriously rare within athletics, even at the Varsity Match in Easter term. Freshers’ Varsity this year saw two Blues standards achieved: Jude Bright-Davies of O*ford in the men’s triple jump, and Johanna Schoenecker in the women’s javelin. Both will be confirmed as Full Blues by an appearance in the Varsity Match, and both won Athlete of the Match in the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.
A handful of Match Records fell throughout the day, Johanna Schoenecker’s javelin throw being one, and the Cambridge men’s 4x100m being another. For the most part, however, the track saw cagey races, especially on the men’s side. James Taylor and Luke McCarron claimed a 1,2 in the 1500m after a slow opening, though in the 3000m a tactical race was won by O*ford.
Women’s track was a near-clean sweep for the Cambridge women; only the 200m and 1500m went the way of the opposition from Iffley Road. Even then, Belinda Clark missed out in the 200m by one tenth of a second, though she scored a first place finish in the 400m. In the field, more events went the way of O*ford than Cambridge, but three wins were sufficient, together with the stellar track performance, to seal a comfortable victory for the Light Blues.
The men, however, suffered defeat. Despite sterling efforts in the field events from the likes of Ed Slater and Oliver Bradfield, who respectively won hammer and javelin, O*ford’s men were just too strong overall on the day.
Final scores were added up, with the men’s and women’s matches being a near mirror of each other:
Women: Cambridge 108, O*ford 81 – CAMBRIDGE WIN
Men: Cambridge 83, O*ford 105 – O*FORD WIN
Excellent effort was shown by all selected and, with honours even at this stage of the season, the outlook for CUAC is looking positive. With VFEAR on the horizon in Lent, it is back to the track and to the field for many of the debutants that performed so admirably at the Freshers’ Varsity Match.