This year, Varsity Swimming was back at home for Oxford, with the event taking place at the Rosenblatt Pool. After last year’s dramatic close encounter where it came down to the final relay, with Oxford winning by just one point overall, there was definitely a lot of anticipation for an exciting repeat and for the third Oxford victory in a row.
The team felt confident having put in an outstanding performance at the BUCS team event taking first place and easing through to the final. However, Cambridge also looked strong, winning the second division (where they were relegated to last year). So Oxford knew they had to bring out their best in order to take victory. With the lead changing hands after nearly every race of the match it was again a tight call – until it came down to the relays and 3 outstanding races from Oxford to take the win.
The Varsity swimming match is decided over seven individual events with each team entering two swimmers, and two relay events with one team entered in each. In the first event of the day, the women’s 200m Individual medley, points were tied with Oxford’s Alex Holderness and Katherine Rollins finishing second and third respectively. Oxford then took the lead after the men’s individual medley Will Allen-Mersh managing to touch out Cambridge in a rapid time of 2.08.64 and fresher James Holder taking third. Cambridge took one-two in the female backstroke giving them the lead at 16-14. In the men’s backstroke however, dominating swims from Davis Tarwater (a member of the USA World Championship team 2009) and Tom Booth (a Fresher who made an appearance in the junior Commonwealth team) gave Oxford the maximum 7 points and a new Oxford record from Davis of 54.36 (destroying the record set last year by Cambridge swimmer Tom Rootsey).
The women’s 200m free saw a close race with Oxford swimmer Nadja Danninger just being pipped to second behind Kat de Rome of Cambridge allowing the light blues to draw level. The men’s 200m was again a close affair but this time Oxford managed to pull through with Vice-Captain and previous light-blue swimmer Tom Close taking first and Joe Cruttwell taking third to give Oxford the lead once more. After the women’s 100m butterfly Cambridge were again ahead but in the men’s race a powerful swim from Jack Marriott, giving him a new Oxford record of 54.60 and a remarkable comeback from Oxford’s Kouji Urata in the final length gave Oxford a 41-39 lead at the interval.
The 400m freestyle, making its second appearance at the Varsity match, saw impressive swims from both Cambridge girls with their captain taking first place. The much anticipated men’s 400m followed, and after last year’s unexpected one-two from two very impressive Cambridge swims, Oxford were desperate to fight back. Another appearance of the World Class Davis Tarwater saw Oxford take first place with Davis cruising to a new record time of 3.56.45 (5 seconds faster than last year’s Cambridge win).
The next event was the 100m breaststroke, and the Oxford team were hopeful that fresher Katherine Rollins could destroy Cambridge’s record of wins in this event. It was a tight race but Cambridge did not concede defeat and took first place giving Oxford second and fourth. In the men’s race it was finger-biting stuff with all four swimmers even at half-way. In the last length however, Oxford’s James Soane managed to pull away from the line-up taking the victory and a new record, with Captain Ian Osband coming third. The women’s 100m freestyle saw a very gutsy performance from Nadja Danninger to steal the win and set an impressive record of 58.95 with fellow team member and ex-Wales international Alex Holderness taking third. The men’s race saw Tom Booth and Tom Close destroy the tabs with two outstanding swims of 51.13 and 51.57 respectively, both of which are substantially faster than the record set last year. At the end of the individual races the overall score was 73-67 to Oxford recreating the same situation as last year where just two wins from the four relays would seal Oxford the victory.
The first relay was the women’s 4x50m medley with Cambridge taking a demanding lead early on and never looking back. Oxford were confident in the men’s 4x100m medley relay however, after winning all four strokes earlier on and showed their strength coming home with a new Oxford record time. Now Oxford needed just one more win from the final two races to clinch the title.
After a motivational speech from Captain Ann Hyams, the girls took their places for the women’s 4x50m freestyle relay. In the first leg Alex Holderness battled it out with Kat de Rome of Cambridge before just touching her out. Katherine Rollins then took control and put Oxford in the clear lead with team mate Philippa Pettingill maintaining this and letting the final swimmer, Nadja, dive in with the advantage. With the home crowd exploding into rapturous cheers Oxford touched in first place giving Oxford victory once more.
With the outcome already decided the men’s team could afford to relax but by no means did they take it easy. The Oxford men, with Davis Tarwater on the anchor leg and being named the outstanding swimmer of the meet, brought home the 8th Club Record in a time of 3.29.91. The final score was 97-83 to Oxford, with Cambridge taking the women’s event but Oxford dominating in the men’s with a win of 58-32. With Oxford’s third victory in a row it looks like the Cambridge run has clearly ended and it’s the dark blues time to reign in the pool. And with much talent shown by the new freshers of the team it certainly looks good for the future.