Women's Varsity Match 2022
Martha Bevan, women's captain, wraps up the season with an overview of the past varsity match and some words for the incoming captain.
Martha Bevan, Women's Captain 2021-22
23 August 2022
It has always seemed to me that no sooner is VFEAR over, the Varsity Match is already staring us down. The build-up to the Match coincides with the days leading to exams and May Week, so this is no surprise, however, it approached particularly fast this year as it was held a week earlier than usual. And yet, this did not prevent the day from delivering glorious weather and thrilling competition. A mere week after BUCS, on a sunny morning, CUAC set out to Iffley Road with the goal of consolidating their dominance over the Dark Blues. Although neither Seconds’ team managed to seal a victory over Oxford, there were a number of strong performances worth mentioning. Ellie O’Keefe stormed to a time of 59.80, a match record, to win the 400m. Jess Poon demonstrated similar sprint dominance, winning both the 100m and the 200m, and showing great promise for her future Varsities. Meanwhile, hurdles newbie Tom Wilkins did not let the ten barriers of the 400mH faze him as he took the victory in 59.99, before coming back to win the 200mH in 28.74. However, the men’s Blues Match saw light blue dominance, with stellar performances from the likes of Sam Clarke, Marley Young, and Captain Angus Harrington. This left them with an overall victory over Oxford with a score of 121-91. Meanwhile, not expected to take home the trophy, Cambridge’s Blues women caught the home team off-guard with their high levels of morale. Louise Shanahan “Louise Shanahaned” by winning the 800m and the 400m in a match record of 55.88. Cambridge’s distance dominance did not stop there, however. Niamh Bridson Hubbard pulled away to win the mile against a stacked field, while triathlete Phoebe Barker and Nancy Scott claimed a 1-2 in the 5000m, the former achieving a match record of 16:34.69. Under the late afternoon sun, the field saw superb efforts from both Mary Adeniji and Johanna Schoenecker. Mary, who had not competed since the previous Varsity Match due to injury, returned in triumphant style to win the long jump and the triple jump in 5.93m and 11.45m respectively. Meanwhile, Johanna added another impressive result to what has been an outstanding season for her as she won the javelin with a match record of 43.48m. Yet, as the old CUAC saying goes, all roads lead to the 4x400m. With the two teams neck and neck, it was indeed down to this final event to determine who would take the overall victory. Despite vehemently claiming she’d only do two events, it took mere seconds to persuade Louise to anchor the team in the 4x400m once she’d seen how close the match was. Ellie got the team off to a strong start with her characteristically powerful running style. She then passed to Jess O’Flaherty – a fresher who has impressed throughout this year and did no less during her first outing on the Blues team. With a slight lead over Oxford, Jess handed over to Milly Dickinson, whose sharp elbows are the stuff of Oxford’s nightmares. Indeed, as Milly passed the baton to Louise for the final leg, disaster struck for Oxford. As Louise darted off round the bend, they dropped the baton, fumbling and panicking to decide who was to pick it back up again. It goes without saying that they finished in second place. Winning the 4x400m meant that the women eventually drew 106-106, the first result of its kind in Varsity Match history. I will be the first to tell you that this was basically a win: the wrong Oxford runner picked up the baton during the relay and they ought to have been disqualified, which would have left Cambridge with the overall victory. Much to OUAC’s chagrin, my esteemed team manager, Martha Stevens, tried to lodge an appeal, although it was eventually decided that vacating Iffley Road and getting everyone to the post-match dinner was a more pressing issue. So, I settled for what was termed “the moral victory” and left for a delicious dinner at Somerville College. Regardless of the exact outcome, both trophies are in Cambridge’s hands – and that’s what matters. On a more serious note, as a Captain, I was heartened to see how much the athletes enjoyed themselves. Many spectators commented on how cohesive of a team we were, and how motivated everyone seemed. Looking back, I’m proud that everyone rose to the challenge set by Oxford and performed above and beyond what was expected of them. When people talk about Varsity athletics being a team sport rather than an individual one, moments like these are what they’re talking about. Perhaps this is also a good moment to thank everyone who has helped me in my position as Women’s Captain: from the coaches who gave me endless advice, to the rest of the senior committee for their leadership, and of course, to the athletes who make CUAC the friendliest club in Cambridge. I leave this position with high hopes for CUAC’s future and for my successor, Grace – good luck!