After 4 years of absence, the much anticipated Swimming Varsity Match came back to Cambridge! The Blues were the last swims of the day. The night session started off with a wave of cheers from our home crowd during the team’s parade.
Cambridge hit Oxford first on the 200m IM, with a crushing 1st/2nd from fresher Rebecca Keetley and CUSWPC veteran and President Ellie O’Keeffe. Pumped by this win, Leo annihilated the field on the fly leg of the medley. Despite this flying start, O*ford were able to come back for a 1st/2nd, despite PBs from both the Captain Giorgos “Papa” Papageorgiou and Leo, who got his first Blues time.
The scene was set for the 100m backstroke. Captain Sophie O’Keeffe killed the race early and came back to touch just tenths away from her own Cambridge record to keep her Varsity title. Victoria Caroll secured a 3rd place to steal vital points from Oxford again. The men’s 100m back was one of the most indecisive races on the programme, with all 4 swimmers less than a second between their PBs. Just like last year, Oxford won the race but only three tenths behind Yann Divet and fresher Ieuan Blackwell, who secured his full Blue with a new PB.
For their first Varsity, Orla Keaveny and Olivia Du both stepped up and hit PBs in the 200m freestyle. Which was also the case for Jacques Bonsell, only he had a few Varsities behind him. Winning in a mind-blowing 1:49.7, Jacques dropped under 1:50 for the first time ever, dropping his personal record and CUSWPC record by 2 whole seconds, grabbing himself the Varsity record along the way! The crowd went wild, with fresher TJ Guy Semple just missing out the mighty 2 minute barrier, dropping 4 whole seconds from his PB just a month before.
President Ellie O’Keeffe came back from 3rd on the first 50 to grab the win on the 100 fly, with fresher Menna Walmsley going a lifetime best to finish just off the podium. The men’s race was as exciting, with Thomas Coste out touching Oxford by 3 hundredths of a second to finish second on his first Varsity. Leo managed a superb race considering he had swam the 200 IM a mere 10 mins before the race, which led us to a well deserved break.
The competition kicked back with the longest individual event on the programme: the mighty 400 free. Orla swam like an orca on an eye-popping last 50 to snatch second from Oxford in a new personal best, with Jasmine Eden-Gray coming shortly behind 8 seconds under her previous lifetime best. A special shout-out to Orla, who started from seconds at the beginning of the year to a Blues time less than 6 months later, eventually throwing up at the end of her race!
The men’s event provided one of the most mouth-watering races of the night, with Social Secretary Flynn Ryan and Cameron Lackey both going new PBs, with Cameron dropping 35 seconds from his previous best !!
No drama on the women’s 100 breaststroke, with 200m breaststroke record holder Rebecca Keetley killing the race to secure her second top spot of the night, with Sara Mahmmud swimming to share points with the Other Place. The lads Captain Giorgos and Maxim de Wildt both broke 1:07 to get astounding new PBs in new Blues times for the event, yet their “Max” wasn’t enough to stop O*ford’s 1st/2nd.
The Varsity can’t be complete without the much anticipated 100m free. Captain Sophie O’Keeffe dived back after her 100m back to swim a lifetime best in order to win the women’s 100m free. Fresher Rebecca Thornton finished on the podium in a Blues time and season best under the mighty minute barrier. Jacques Bonsell kept his momentum from his ground-breaking 200m free to break a new lifetime best to come even closer to the sub-50 barrier. Treasurer Tom Woolley was in the money with a bronze-medal finish, also getting a new PB.
With the individual events over, all eyes were on the relays. The women’s 4x100m medley relay was just a race against time for backstroker Sophie O’Keeffe, breastroker Rebecca Keetley, flyer Ellie O’Keeffe and freestyler Rebecca Thornton. Finishing 18 seconds in front of the Other Place, they had enough time to celebrate lowering the new CUSWPC record by 3 seconds, with both Sophie and Rebecca Keetley finishing unbeaten for all 3 of their swims. For the men’s relay, Ieuan Blackwell lowered his personal best from an hour ago to lead off the relay. Both on their first Varsity, Sihan Yu and Thomas Coste unofficially broke their PB on their breaststroke and butterfly split respectively, with Jonnie James anchoring the relay. Despite those valiant efforts, the Other Place touched first.
I never saw a closer race than that freestyle relay. And I’ve seen many races, trust me. The team of Secretary Megan Kemp, Vice-President & Vice-Captain Clemmie Butler-Brown, Sponsorship Officer Justine Rannou and Jas swam neck to neck with O*ford, before getting out-touched at the end of the race. The men’s team of Yann Divet, Guy Semple and anchored by Thomas Woolley weren’t able to hold on to star man Jacques Bonsell’s lead, despite the valiant fight.
This thrilling 128th Swimming Varsity match concludes a ground-breaking season for CUSWPC, which will certainly be remember as the first women’s victory over the last decade. As mentioned during Varsity Dinner, 12 swimmers achieved Blues times (7 men, 5 women), which is a significant increase from 9 swimmers last year. The team’s strength doesn’t only reside in standout swimmers such as Varsity MVP Sophie O’Keeffe, our one-to-watch fresher Rebecca Keetley or veteran Jacques Bonsell, but also the cohesion between each and every CUSWPC swimmer. All these accomplishments are even more impressive when we take into account the limited swimming time this year of 5 hours a week.
These performances wouldn’t have been possible without the consistent help of tireless President Ellie O’Keeffe, who organised this Home Varsity, and both swimming Captains Sophie O’Keeffe and Giorgos Papageorgiou for their leadership. No superlatives can describe how amazing Chris Greenhalgh’s training has prepared us for our highlight of the year. The match couldn’t have been as exciting without Samrahn Sandhu and Ellie Mason’s commentaries, as well as the roaring support of friends and family at our special home of Parkside Pool.The whole team cheering on the relays!
GDBO, we’ll get them next year!
Swimming Publicity Officer