Blues Varsity 2023

Beatrice Wood | Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and a coach-load of CUH&H runners huddled in Thames H&H’s clubhouse, awaiting Wimbledon’s most prestigious sporting showdown in the calendar with baited breath. Implacable December weather. The raw afternoon was rawest, and the dense fog was densest, and the muddy streets were muddiest on the common, where the 2023 Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity Cross Country competition was set to take place. Mist swept in from the windmill, shards of ice mingled with cloying mud, and spectators wombled up and down, apprehensive exhalations casting frosty puffs of air upwards to the skies, who thankfully remained clear. A twelfth-year mathmo who just can’t get enough CUH&H exited his mind-palace, his final impulsive bout of number-crunching fading into oblivion in the wake of the starting gun. The stage is set, the curtain rises…


After the ‘Old Gits’ race, our Women’s Blues took to the common, with Phoebe Barker’s emphatic victory of over a minute exhibiting a masterclass of cross country running. Oxford’s team then packed impressively, filling the next five positions, and our next Cambridge runners home were Poppy Craig-McFeely and Lilian Lewis, who battled well to finish in seventh and eighth respectively. Positions ninth to eleventh were also occupied by the light blues, as Louise Shanahan, Maia Hardman and Milly Dickinson packed well to score ahead of Oxford’s sixth runner. Holly Sprosen and Ella Colbourn, admirably willing to join the team at shorter notice, completed our Cambridge run; some great performances, but ultimately Oxford’s dominance awarded them a team victory. The Men’s Blues were, however, victorious for the fourth year in a row, and were led home by overall winner Jeremy Dempsey, and runner-up Joe Massingham, both Cambridge men producing excellent exhibitions of cross country prowess over the course. The next scoring positions were highly contested, with Pete Molloy and Terry Fawden in fourth and sixth respectively, our next Cambridge victors. Lawrence Hollom and Thomas Dugré also had fantastic runs, closing out the light blue scorers in positions eleventh and thirteenth. Tom Spencer and James Rennie battled through to take the last two places, the brilliant series of performances granting CUH&H the overall victory, with a final score of 38-42.

Although I may have used fragments of Dickens’ Bleak House to set the scene for this report, nothing about our fantastic day out was remotely bleak, or resembled in any way the 900-page Victorian novel beset with woe and anguish. Instead, a great day lead to a wonderful evening, and as a club we would like to congratulate our runners, Oxford’s runners, and thank our coach Phil and Thames H&H for once again welcoming us and encouraging this sport and tradition to flourish!