----------------------------------- Blues Varsity, Wimbledon Common (03/12/05) -----------------------------------
After storming to a five-one win over Cambridge in the II-V's cross-country matches, Oxford arrived at Wimbledon Common on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon of December knowing that overall, victory was already theirs. Carrying all the fatigue of eighth week, both physically and mentally, the Dark Blues stepped off the coach to greet their opposition knowing that the match that faced them was not going to be easy, as Cambridge were desperate to regain some pride after the crushing defeat of the previous weekend.
First to race were the women. Cambridge employed their usual tactics of setting a fast early pace, enabling the Oxford ladies to sit back for the first few minutes until Rachel Deegan took the initiative and led the field through the water jump. After the first mile, things were already going to plan: Women's Captain Courtney Birch took the lead and from this point opened up an ever-increasing lead that saw her stride to victory, claiming her first Varsity title. An elated Birch was overcome with emotion and watched with delight as Lucia Gibson and Rachel Deegan completed a clean sweep of the honours.
Just behind, a real battle was developing between the remaining three Oxford girls and the first Cambridge runner home. Tricia Peters was the only Tab to succeed in breaking up the Oxford team and must be credited with a strong performance, as not even Lizi Brathwaite's track speed was enough to catch her back. Fresher Rachel Ward, next to finish, proved she is one to watch for the future: there were doubts as to whether or not Rachel would be able to run at all, having picked up a nasty stress injury in her leg; fortunately, she was given the go-ahead by her physio, and ran a superb race given that her preparation was far from ideal. Varsity veteran Emily Ferenczi completed the team just five seconds behind, running her final match having been selected for the Blues team every year since starting her degree in medicine, despite switching sides half way through!
The men's race was the closest it has been in the last few years, with Jon Blackledge neck and neck with Cambridge's Paolo Natali until the final few hundred metres, which saw him stride powerfully away from a struggling Natali to secure the Oxford double. Former Varsity winner Fraser Thompson was next to cross the line, just holding off fellow team mate Ben Moreau, who was also running his final Varsity match this year. Worcester fresher Richard Franzese found himself running alone for much of the race but continued strong until the end, finishing an excellent sixth place just ahead of Martin Bishop, who dug deep in the last part of the race to produce a superb sprint finish, and was rewarded by beating Tab Matt Armstrong into eighth place.
Dave Bruce ran a brilliant first race for the Blues, beating former Cambridge captain Ben Hope, and he was followed by James Hogan in eleventh place who was called upon at the last minute to replace the injured Mark Dewhirst. James had won the Seconds match the week before at Shotover, and put in a great performance, even improving on last year's Blues performance. Alan Chetwynd, another Blues newcomer, was the final man home for Oxford, just missing out on twelfth position having been pipped by Tab Patrick Ward, leaving the final three Cambridge runners trailing.
The final scores read 11-31 and 30-51 to Oxford in the women's and men's races respectively, the highest scores that have been recorded for over a decade. Club Captain Patrick Wallace is one of only three OUCCC Captains to lead Oxford to a 7-1 victory, and declared he was "delighted for everyone". Courtney Birch added: "We have all worked so hard for this victory- we deserve it, and it brings a huge confidence boost as we look towards the BUSA Championships next term."
Ladies Race (4 miles) Pos Time Name Team 1 23:52 Courtney Birch Oxford 2 24:44 Lucia Gibson Oxford 3 25:11 Rachel Deegan Oxford 4 25:17 Tricia Peters Cambridge 5 25:22 Elizabeth Braithwaite Oxford 6 25:33 Rachel Ward Oxford 7 25:38 Emily Ferenczi Oxford 8 26:03 Charlotte Forbes Cambridge 9 26:12 Claire Day Cambridge 10 27:02 Catharine Wood Cambridge 11 27:14 Kyla Bowen-la Grange Cambridge 12 27:52 Sarah Kummerfeld Cambridge Oxford win 11-31 Mens Race (7.2 miles) Pos Time Name Team 1 38:07 Jonathan Blackledge Oxford 2 38:15 Paolo Natali Cambridge 3 38:26 Fraser Thompson Oxford 4 38:29 Ben Moreau Oxford 5 39:24 William George Cambridge 6 40:09 Richard Franzese Oxford 7 40:14 Martin Bishop Oxford 8 40:15 Matt Armstrong Cambridge 9 40:21 David Bruce Oxford 10 40:26 Ben Hope Cambridge 11 40:38 James Hogan Oxford 12 40:46 Patrick Ward Cambridge 13 40:48 Alan Chetwynd Oxford 14 40:58 Owain Bristow Cambridge 15 41:49 Andy Bell Cambridge 16 43:46 Richard Ward Cambridge Oxford win 30-51
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