25th February 2023, Parkside Pools Cambridge
Cambridge: 95 Oxford: 85
Mens: Cambridge 49, Oxford 41
Womens: Cambridge 46, Oxford 44
After two terms of hard training and pizza eating, the energised and committed Seconds team was ready to come back with a bang at the first home Varsity in four years following last year’s fairly significant defeat. The Seconds Varsity kicked off the day of Swimming Varsities and, after sizing up the competition in the parade, supported by a strong home crowd, racing began.
Starting off proceedings was the 100m IM, in which women’s captain Yvonne Winterborn led in the Cambridge contingent with a personal best time, followed by strong performances from Kat Williams and Eva Barry, though they couldn’t prevent the dominant O*ford 1st/2nd. The gents followed and got off to a solid start, bagging 1st and 2nd, with Alfie Collins claiming the victory, and men’s captain Ed Roberts just tenths of a second behind him. Jake Scott secured himself not only a PB but also a county time, an impressive feat for the recent recruit.
Next came some seriously fast swimming in the 50m backstroke. Rosa Pollard Smith put in an electric performance to get a Cambridge Seconds Varsity record time of 32.70, only just out touched to come in 2nd. Grace Riley was just behind her in 3rd place, both securing county times, with shouts of “yeah Pem!” resonating from the stands. Recent dev squad graduate Vivian Jiang also gave a stellar performance. For the men, somewhat like Moses, Cameron Manley parted the Parkside water to put in a blistering time of 27.88, securing 3 points for the team and a new Cambridge Seconds Varsity record! Not far behind was Samrahn Sandhu to grab us third place in an event he doesn’t usually swim, and Alex Heatley, who put in a great swim having only joined the squad a few months ago.
Next up was the hotly anticipated 100m freestyle. Vet med veteran Evie took nearly 1s off her PB from varsity last year to come in 2nd – all her distance training for her upcoming Channel swim has clearly only made her faster! Speedy fresher Izzy was close behind in 3rd securing more precious points at her varsity debut, and everyone’s Faye-vourite Faye Zhao touched in 5th. With the crowd roaring for the men’s event, the Cambridge lions, Issei Kuzuki, James Jennings and Dafydd Ravenscroft, all got off to a great start. Surfacing from the final turn Issei found himself neck and neck with Oxford’s lane 5. Despite being pipped at the finish, Issei smashed home a new Cambridge varsity record. Dafydd and James both put in equally impressive swims to bag some extra points for the team. James achieved a new personal best, just shy of a sub minute time!
The roaring home crowd
Next was 50m butterfly where Ella Veakins, armed with her light blue eyeliner, stormed into 2nd place with a Cambridge Seconds Varsity record. Kat, whose fly is just getting faster and faster, came closely behind in 3rdwith a PB and county time, followed by Abbie Lewis, who gave her all despite believing swimming should be followed by cycling and running. The men’s promised to be a loud one and it did not disappoint. After his second training session of the year, otherwise known as the warmup, Harry Weston donned his racing suit and was ready to channel his inner Michael Phelps. The half man half torpedo pulled off a colossal victory to bring home the full 4 points for the team. Nathan Williams and Pratyush Mishra both had a great start and surfaced level with each other. Nathan eventually pulled away and bagged an extra point for the mighty light blues along with a new personal best! Pratyush came in 1.4 seconds quicker than the time he achieved at BUCS earlier in the year, a testament to his commitment in training.
Just 2 points behind at the break, victory was within reach and the Seconds dug deep for an excellent second half of the individual events. The longest and most painful individual event, the 200m freestyle, started off the second half with Evie putting in a strong performance to gain 2nd, and Ellie Mason close behind in 3rd, a warmup for her spicy commentating at the Blues varsity later in the evening. Captain Yvonne took one for the team to fill the spaces, and touched in 4th, bagging herself a 5s PB. After only just getting his breath back from the 100m free, Issei was up again for the 200m. He mounted a momentous sprint on the last few lengths, pushing Oxford’s lane 3 to give it his all but just missed out in the end. Another length and he would’ve left Oxford in the dust. Oliver Bramley, another great swimmer who joined us at the start of term, had an amazing swim to finish in 3rd. Not far behind was Ed Cator from the triathlon team to bring home a nice Cambridge 2nd, 3rd, 4th. A great race all round!
Cambridge’s momentum continued to build in the 50m breaststroke. Exchange student Mishael Hyat Ayub put in a blazing performance to earn herself a Seconds Varsity Record and finally get the Cambridge women’s first podium top spot of the evening. Ella narrowly missed out on 2nd place, and recent addition from dev squad Charlotte Macey bagged herself a county time. The men’s 50m breaststroke was a successful one for the light blues with the team securing 1st, 3rd and 5th. Samrahn had victory in his sight from the start, finishing in a blistering time of 31.15, with captain Ed and Renat Samur both close behind. All three Cambridge men left the water with regional times to their name and lots of points in the bag.
The crowd went wild as the Cambridge women dominated in the final individual event, the 50m freestyle. There must be something in the eye makeup, as Izzy in her brilliant blue eyeshadow stormed to victory having led from the off. She was closely followed in 2nd place by Anna Stevenson, whose performance was excellent despite being pretty much anywhere other than Cambridge most of the year on placement, and Grace who was back in the pool the other way around after her strong backstroke swim earlier. For the men we had the trio Ben Carter, Alfie Collins and Hanyang Li. Ben and Alfie left Oxford for dust in their long bubble trail to claim 1st and 2nd! Hanyang had an equally impressive swim, finishing in a close 5th place. A solid last event for the gentlemen.
Some mental maths from Coach Chris told us we were 10 points ahead, meaning that we just had to win one of the four relay races and a Cambridge victory would be secured! A special shoutout to those who had waited through all the individual events for their time to shine: Ro Michaelis, Anya Penderis, Talia Rubin, Aidan Jones and Tom Plant, all making their Varsity debuts. Despite the strong Team A of Kat, Rosa, Ella and Ro getting a Cambridge Seconds Varsity record, they finished behind O*ford, meaning it was all to play for in the men’s medley relay. The pool was alive with energy as the four teams took to the blocks. Cameron Manley once again sliced through the water to put Team A ahead of their Oxford counterparts after the first leg. The roar of the crowd increased with the lead throughout the breaststroke and fly legs. Anchor Issei had the job of securing the victory on the final leg, an easy task for the part fish man from Clare. Parkside erupted with noise as he smashed home a new Cambridge Seconds Varsity record for Team A and, more importantly, formalised the light blues first varsity victory in many many years! There were also great performances all round from Team B, with Aidan putting in an impressive backstroke leg.
The winning moment as Cambridge won the men’s medley relay!
Though victory was already ours, that didn’t stop the women’s freestyle relay A team of Evie, Grace, Anna and Izzy from giving their all, the latter three having swum the 50m free minutes before. They stormed to victory, coming in well under the 2-minute mark to secure the victory for Cambridge, with the B team putting in a good fight too. Finally, all eyes were on the glistening Parkside water for the men’s free relay. The race was a tense one with Oxford and Cambridge leapfrogging each other several times throughout the race. Eventually Cambridge secured 2nd and 3rd, with rumours the powerful kick of the swimmers could be heard as far away as Girton. Team A were only half a second behind their Oxford rivals while Team B smashed Oxford Team B by a humongous 3 seconds. All in all, another good showing from Cambridge.
Waiting for the finalisation of the results felt longer than the commute to the Uni Sports Centre, but sure enough, the Cambridge victory was confirmed, and the team leaped into the pool in celebration, accompanied by jubilant roars from the home crowd.
The jubilant team celebrating their victory!
None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of President Ellie O’Keeffe in organising this Varsity, and the invaluable coaching from Chris and Harriet at CoCSC. A big thanks also to commentators Clemmie and Megan, and of course to the O*ford captains and team for making the journey over to us and being fierce competition. And lastly to our team, whose dedication and hard graft this year truly paid off – hopefully this year is the start of Cambridge dominance in Seconds Swimming Varsity!
Ed Roberts and Yvonne Winterborn
Seconds Swimming Captains