Blues Varsity 2016: Details

This Saturday sees the 126th Gentlemen’s and 41st Ladies’ University Cross-Country Races take place on Wimbledon Common (Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Fields).

The schedule for the day is:

  • 1.00 pm – 25th Old Blues Race Mob Match
  • 2.00 pm – 41st Ladies’ Race
  • 2.45 pm – 126th Gentlemen’s Race

Further details can be found here.

Varsity IInds – IVths 2016: Report

The annual Oxford vs. Cambridge IInds to IVths cross-country races. In other words, V-day round one. Often referred to as a ‘warm up’ or ‘understudy’ for the Blues Match, the event does an excellent job of proving this label incorrect. And rightly so, after all, the fundamentals are no different: dark blue vs light blue, two teams, one prize. Run. Other than a distinct lack of blazers, carnations and old men in Thames Hare & Hounds beanie hats reminiscing their university days, it has all the same anticipation, drama and confusing white vests as Wimbledon Common.

Priory Park, St. Neots, served as a first time venue this year, following council rejection of the permit application for Wandlebury Park. When asked to comment on the reasoning behind this, Mr Ellis explained that whilst he fully supports running conventions across the country, he could not make an exception for incompetent Oxbridge students for the third time in two years. Thus at half past ten on Saturday 26th November 2016 we found ourselves stood in a foggy field on the outskirts of Cambridge, watching a kids football match and wondering, as we often do, where on earth the Tabs had got to.

First thoughts were to pass the time by walking the course, however this turned out to be somewhat impractical on realisation that the course was yet to be marked out. Instead we had to make do with zip wiring across the children’s play park until our rivals decided to show up. It wouldn’t be a race report without mentioning the OUCCC tent, and it is pleasing to be able to report that it stood with considerably more grandeur than it had done two weeks earlier, probably because Aidan had crutches in his hands so couldn’t help. Eventually our competitors emerged from the blurry horizon and greeted us with race numbers and course markings.

Kick starting the action was the 30th Ladies’ Seconds race. With final team huddles and motivational speeches complete the girls lined up and waited for their cue to open the show. The light blues looked to be dominating for much of the first lap, but Rachel Skokowski and Emma De Camp held their own in the leading pack. Emma chased hard over the second half of the race and took a brilliant third place individually, only five seconds adrift of second. Tilly Woods came through for an impressive fifth place, demonstrating the huge progress she has made this term and staking her claim as one to watch for the future. Following Tilly home was Annika Halverson in sixth, and having fought hard to prevent Cambridge dominance at the start of the race, Rachel finished strongly in ninth. She was backed up by Rebecca Pullon, Kennagh Marsh and Anna Sharp. Cambridge took a deserved overall victory but the dark blue girls definitely put up a fight. With five newcomers all gaining valuable Varsity experience things are looking bright for the team’s progression over the next few years.

Next to toe the line were the athletes for the 69th Gentlemen’s Seconds. In contrast to the preceding race it was Oxford who looked to be controlling this one from the gun. Miles Chandler, Alex Gruen and Jed Marshall all positioned themselves nicely at the front, with back up in the form of Nikki Faulkner, Oliver Paulin and James Sewry just behind. As the three lap race unfolded it was Club Captain Miles who pushed on and before long he was alone at the head of the race. In fine style he extended this lead around the final lap and brought home a thoroughly deserved Varsity victory. Behind Miles the other Oxford boys were following his example and tearing the Cambridge team apart. The dark blues flooded into the finishing funnel as Alex and Jed battled hard to take third and fourth places respectively, with a stellar run from Niki bringing him across the line in sixth just ahead of Olly in seventh and James in eighth. Not to be outdone by their team mates further up the field Connor Haugen and Tom Fabes were right up amongst the action, finishing tenth and twelfth respectively and thus both beating multiple Cambridge scorers. Unsurprisingly this utterly dominant show meant an Oxford Victory for Miles and his merry men. Quote of the day goes to Capt. Chandler who, in the frenzied aftermath of tab-smashing let out a bewildered exclamation of, “I don’t think I’ve ever won a race before!”. Varsity is certainly not a bad place to break that trend, although one would imagine that some thorough secondary school results analysis is probably in order before that fact can be officially verified. No doubt namesake Mr. Weatherseed will be able to use his Power of 10, well, power, to help us out on this one.

The Men's II race gets underway

The Men’s II race gets underway.

Starting just five minutes after the seconds, the 62nd Gentlemen’s Thirds followed swiftly in their footsteps, but the race could not have panned out more differently. As the sixteen blue and white vests rounded the U-turn on lap one, you could be forgiven for thinking you were not watching a cross country race at all but in fact a Championship track final. This was no surprise given the number of middle distance specialists who had taken to the start line, and it made for highly entertaining spectating throughout. Would King Louis become King Snail for the second time in his illustrious Varsity cross-country career? Or would his equally tactical, sprint finish-favouring rivals catch him out? The short answers to both of those questions were yes, and thus no. Bailings showed up, for once, and got the job done. Unfortunately for our boys, the Tabs fielded an incredibly strong thirds team and claimed second to sixth place behind Louis. James Collins was next home for the dark blues in seventh, closely followed by Colum O’Leary. Glen Wright Colopy, Noah Hurton, Rowan Capper, Aaron Smith and Joel Spratt completed an Oxford team who did not give in under the light blue pressure and all put in great performances, but were ultimately beaten by a stronger Cambridge contingent.

Rounding off the day were the Mob (mob mob mob mob…) matches. First up, the ladies. With face paint, nail varnish and French plaits firmly in place (all the most crucial aspects of race prep, right Aidan?), the girls were ready to do business. Emily Hoogkamer did exactly that as she took the race in her beautiful stride, won it by the most convincing margin of the day, and ran herself into a Blues reserve place. Natalie Beadle and Georgie Bingham ensured we were well represented at the front end of the race, taking third and fourth places respectively. Despite narrowly losing out overall, the girls did Oxford proud and it was fantastic to see every single one of them, old and new members alike, getting stuck in and embracing the Varsity way of life – giving it your all no matter what.  The same sentiment can be applied to the men’s equivalent, where Harrison McCartney, Rahil Sachak-Patwa and Aitor Alvarez all took top ten finishes, but Cambridge claimed their fourth team victory of the day through considerably superior strength in numbers.

Overall a disappointing four-one loss for OUCCC, but as we departed tab-land and headed either home or onwards to dinner, drinking and dancing, the atmosphere was not one of a disheartened club. And nor should it have been. The camaraderie within teams, the unrelenting encouragement and positivity from spectators (despite some even risking their vocal chords), the belief and support from Kyle and the dedication displayed by every single athlete were what mattered. Upon arrival, our captains’ standout message had been simple – leave everything on the course. Anyone who turned to look back over the fields as we boarded the coaches for our departure would have seen that we had fulfilled these instructions to the max. We left behind not the desolate, spiritless playing fields that had greeted us, but a park forever imprinted with passion, emotion, bravery and team spirit. A park forever imprinted with Varsity.

Full results can be accessed here.

Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall

Women's Mob

Women’s Mob

Milton Keynes Cross Challenge 2016: Report

Fifth Week: the beginning of the second half of term and notorious for a phenomenon that causes students to get pretty stressed and take part in multiple feel good activities such as adult colouring and alpaca cuddling in an attempt to ‘beat the blues’. Not for OUCCC. Cometh the end of fifth week, cometh the Cross Challenge and the only blues we were concerned with beating were a certain variety of minty green map reading novices strutting their stuff at the Met League.

We congregated on Beaumont Street at a very civilised hour, but in considerably less civilised weather, ready to board the coach. One can only assume that Aidan forgot to change his clocks a few weeks ago, as onlookers were left astounded by his on-time arrival ahead of Christofi. It later transpired that Will was delayed somewhat by a brief detour to the police station, having been caught attempting to smuggle thirty seven rolls of college owned toilet paper through the Univ lodge an hour earlier. Anyway, eventually we made it onto the bus and hit the road to Teardrop Lakes. Despite claiming that ‘the coach journey is the best part of the day’, Jamie had decided an extra hour in bed and a car journey with his newly crowned Sportsman of the Year successor was in fact even better. An hour of Two Door Cinema Club later, he may have regretted this decision. We will never know.

To be fair to Jamie he wasn’t the only person too cool for the coach journey. Sophia ‘I need to leave straight after my race so I can do three more training sessions today’ Saller also chose to travel by smaller vehicle and miss out on all of the standard coach trip activities. These included, but were not limited to, everybody massively overheating having dressed for a cross country race rather than a sauna and the classic register roll call of ‘hands up if you’re not here’. Luckily the coach driver did a significantly superior job of locating the race car park than we had done in our minibuses last year and in what felt like no time at all we were walking the familiar path to the course.

First stop on arrival for many were the portable toilets (which may or may not have been Portaloos® provided by Portakabin®). Whilst some people waited patiently for the privilege of the blue plastic cubicles, many chose to avoid both the horrendously long queue and any risk of trademark controversy by opting for slightly less discrete locations. Amongst all the toilet drama Olly and his helpers put up the tent. It wasn’t the best the OUCCC tent has ever looked, probably because Aidan helped, but it was nonetheless appreciated as a much needed shelter from the elements later in the day.

After safely stowing their bags and belongings away in the dry, the girls headed off to inspect the course and the solid underfoot conditions were a pleasant surprise. With drills done, spikes secured, and last minute layers left with LC, they were ready for the off. On a fast and furious six kilometre course Bethanie Murray once again led them home. She finished in seventeenth place and Dani Chattenton came through next to a brilliant thirty-third. Behind Dani there was some impressive close packing as dark blue vests filled thirty seventh to forty-first, with only one systematic absence in position thirty-nine. Sophia Saller, Helen Record, Helene Greenwood and Hannah Plaschkes all ran incredibly well and the top Oxford girls showed that they will indeed be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s Varsity matches. Further down the field this close packing trend continued as the rest of the team all produced hard fought performances. It wouldn’t be the MK Cross Challenge without some good post race Insta material, and the girls did not disappoint with a new angle for this year’s group selfie that may have broken the record for the most accounts to post exactly the same photo. Don’t worry though, they all used a slightly different filter and none of them used XProII (sorry Hugh).

The men couldn’t quite live up to this level of social media dominance, but they did dominate the race in impressive style. Those present at the previous evening’s Sports Awards might argue this was unsurprising, given the Olympic trials athletes within their ranks. Amongst a top quality Cross Challenge field the dark blue boys produced six of the top thirty and ten of the top fifty, led home by none other than William Christofi in eighth place. With European selection no doubt in the back of his mind, Will certainly gave his U23 competitors something to think about. He also demonstrated an interesting new tactical approach to beating ones rivals, in this case a famous BUCS face from Reading. If we set out not to beat the tabs, could that be exactly how we beat them? Someone who will no doubt play a leading role in that outcome will be Jamie Parkinson, who bounced back from pre-Cuppers illness to storm home in twelfth place. Not bad given that most of the well known names who finished around him are probably still wondering who on earth this orienteering hockey player who gate-crashes their national class line ups every now and then actually is.

Following injured organisational duties at Cuppers, it turned out that ‘Danger Varsity’ was in fact just a little bit too dangerous, even for Alex ‘dynasty’ Howard himself. A top twenty finish from Howie showed that his strength and experience will also be invaluable on Wimbledon Common. Coming in next was seconds team stalwart Dan Mulryan who produced an excellent run to finish in twenty fifth-place and make his first Blues team. Naively led to believe that all possible danger comes from above, fresher John Spill had been too busy looking up (or perhaps he was just running too fast) to spot a nasty piece of glass in South Park a week earlier, which led to an A&E trip and some ridiculous rehab spinning sessions. Powering through the pain DBJ showed us all how a game face is done properly as he followed Dan home in twenty-seventh. Another strong performance from Eoghan Totten saw him not far behind in thirtieth. One by one, and in quick succession, the rest of the team filed into the finishing funnel to round off another highly successful OUCCC outing.

With cool downs complete and team photos taken it was soon time to be heading home. The tent came down as the rain worsened, but luckily we had the warmth of the coach to look forward to and we were soon waving goodbye to the land of concrete cows and roundabouts. Huge thanks to Kyle for all of his support so far this term and out on the course at Milton Keynes. Next stop, something many of you probably won’t understand because it’s Varsity, it’s Varsity.

Full results can be accessed here.

Laura Fenwick, Lady Margaret Hall