Swimmers Sink Oxford

GORDON PAL sees Cambridge seal victory at the death in Varsity swimming.

Blues dale waterhouse Oxford parkside swimming

Cambridge won a thrilling Varsity swimming match at the Parkside Pools yesterday in front of a rapturous Light Blue crowd. In surely the greatest finale of the Blues face-off ever, the whole match came down to the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle relay, in which Dale Waterhouse guided the Cambridge team home by a fraction of a second to take the crown.

The animosity between the teams was clear from the moment the Cambridge team forced their opposition to parade to I’m a Little Teapot before the start of the competition. When racing started, Oxford were left looking short and stout in the first two events – 200 metre medleys – as Henny Dillon took the women’s title and then Waterhouse broke the Cambridge Varsity record in winning his race in 2.07.77.

The victorious Light Blues show off their trophies

Oxford then fought back, comfortably taking both 100 metre Backstroke events and breaking their own University records in the process.

In the 200 Freestyles, the match finally burst into life after four easy victories. Both the men’s and women’s races came down to stroke-for-stroke sprints in the final 25 metres, but Oxford snick victories in both by under a second to take a commanding lead after six races.

The onus was then placed on Cambridge’s competitors in the 100 metre Butterfly races to drag the Light Blues back into contention before the half-way mark. Sure enough, the women didn’t disappoint, with a 1-2, and Henny Dillon winning by over four seconds from Emily Darley in second. The men came in second and third to leave their team trailing by three points at the interval, while the women held a slender two-point advantage.

When the swimmers returned to the pool, it was with two enthralling match-ups in the 400 metre Freestyles. Both races were closely fought, and at the half-way stage in each, Cambridge looked the favourites. However, strong late swimming from Oxford saw them take the 1-2 in the women’s race and first place in the men’s.

Once again, the Light Blues found themselves under the pump, and in desperate need of wins before the relays. Once again, they stepped up. Caroline Gordon took the women’s 100 Breaststroke, and then Tom Hill the men’s. There was another comfortable Oxford victory in the women’s 100 metre Freestyle, before Fresher Dale Waterhouse broke another Cambridge Varsity record in his first Blues contest: winning the men’s 100 Freestyle in a Personal Best 51.93 seconds.

Going into the relays, the women’s contest was tied at 35-35, while Oxford led the men’s event 35-34. To take the overall crown, Cambridge would have to win three of the four relays.

Things looked up after the women’s 4×50 Medley, when the Light Blues strolled to a victory by over five seconds. However, the fortunes were reversed, when Oxford won by seven seconds to take the men’s crown for the 4th year running.

But with both freestyle relays still to come, Cambridge could win both the women’s and overall matches with two victories. The women delivered: sneaking through by under a second to deny Oxford their first title of the century.

This meant the overall 129th Varsity swimming competition came down to the winner-takes-all final race: the men’s 4×100 metre Freestyle.

After strong swims from Joel Carpenter, Tom Rootsey, and captain Andy Corley, it was left to Waterhouse to take on Oxford’s much-revered Tom Booth in the final leg. Hitting the water 0.06 seconds after Booth, the rookie swimmer had the fate of the whole match on his shoulders. With the whole crowd on its feet roaring the two competitors on four length of the Parkside Pool, there were only hundredths of a seconds between them as they matched each other stroke for stroke.

But as they simultaneously turned for the final 25 metres of the match, Waterhouse’s superior sprinting ability shone through as he touched the pool wall just 0.35 seconds before his rival and was immediately embraced by his whole team.

Speaking to The Tab immediately after the conclusion of the race, Waterhouse said: “the whole team – and in particular the rest of the relay – were absolutely amazing to be able to put me in the position to finish off the victory.

“It was absolutely unbelievable. Literally the best moment of my life. I can’t imagine anything better.

“I’m absolutely over the moon [to hold three Cambridge Varsity records]. Good times.”

Friend and fellow Clareite Wajid Malik said: “he is my Week 5 Blue.”