On the 60th Anniversary of the 1952’s legendary fog race, when Sir Christopher Chataway was guided through thick London smog by whistles in order to claim joint victory for himself and the Dark Blues, a dominant performance by St Cross runner Jacob Wiebel was not enough to see a repeat of that team success.
As honorary men’s starter, Magdalen alumnus Chataway received a warm ovation from both the athletes and spectators, who had turned out in large numbers, despite the bitterly cold weather, in order to witness the event.
The race itself saw Wiebel lead from the front as he completed the course in a time of 38 minutes and 41 seconds. A very strong performance in the latter stages also earned teammate Sean Ledger (St John’s) a well deserved second place and saw him beat the first Cambridge finisher to the line by just one second.
Unfortunately, the Dark Blue one-two was not enough to claim overall victory on the day. The competition’s format hands victory to the team whose first six finishers have the lowest combined score, and Oxford’s defeat was by the very narrow margin of 42 to Cambridge’s 38. This has now levelled the overall standings at 61 matches apiece and makes Varsity 2013, where Oxford will be more determined than ever to regain their cross-country superiority, an exciting prospect.
A similar story also rang true of the Women’s race, where an excellent run by Trinity’s Kate Niehaus, competing in her first Varsity for OUCCC, earned her a solid second place finish. However, despite a great effort from all of the runners, the Cambridge team were the stronger side this year and again claimed a close victory (by combined total of the top four finishers) of 15 – 22.
Reflecting on the event, despite Oxford’s thorough preparations, the Tabs had definitely put forward two much stronger teams than in previous years. OUCCC are by no means beaten though and will be looking to work with their coaches, Jenny Harris and Richard Franzese, to build upon the hard work leading up to Varsity in order to produce an even better performance at the BUCS Championships at Leeds in February.
Oxford Men’s Scorers: Jacob Wiebel (1), Sean Ledger (2), Thomas Frith (6 –St Anne’s), Fabian Downs (9- -St Anne’s), Peter Hodkinson (10 – St Anne’s) and Adam Speake (14 – Worcester).
Oxford’s Women’s Scorers: Kate Niehaus (2), Caitlin Mullarkey (4 – Trinity), Sophia Saller (7 –St Catherine’s) and Joanna Klaptocz (9 –St Hugh’s).
PHOTOS// CHARLOTTE COLE