On Saturday 2nd December, Thames will once again be hosting the Oxford-Cambridge University Cross-Country Races, continuing a tradition that dates back to 1896.
Having won three of the four races since the Covid-19 break in 2020 and both races in 2019, Cambridge will be looking to extend their recent dominance into 2023 and the races offer two differing prospects.
In the 47th Ladies’ Race, although they have lost the services of double race winners Nancy Scott (Newnham) and Niamh Bridson Hubbard (Magdalene), the latter to European selection, the Light Blues have three of their first five home from their comprehensive victory in 2022. They are Irish international Louise Shanahan (Trinity), Phoebe Barker (Robinson), who was second last year, and Poppy Craig-McFeely (Robinson). To this strong trio, they also welcome Bea Wood (Lucy Cavendish), who missed out last year due to European selection and who won the under 20 National Cross-Country in February.
Against such a formidable side, a stiff challenge awaits the Dark Blues. However, they have a strong team in their own right and they will be hoping to pack strongly. They boast some significant experience of the race through three Saltires and former Light Blues: Elizabeth Apsley (St. Hilda’s); Lauren Major (Merton); and Ruby Woolfe (Keble). They also have a number of promising new faces; however, given the top end strength of their opponents, Cambridge enter the contest as slight favourites.
The 132nd Gentlemen’s Race is an enticing prospect, with Cambridge looking to become the first since for nearly 30 years to win four in a row. Their challenge will be spearheaded by last year’s individual winner Jeremy Dempsey (Girton). An excellent run at Liverpool last weekend shows that he is in the form to repeat that feat. Their hopes have taken something of a blow with the withdrawal through injury of 2021 winner Jamie Edgerton (Jesus). Nevertheless, Joe Massingham (Pembroke), who missed out at the last minute through injury in 2022, and Terry Fawden (Wolfson) should provide Dempsey with ample backup. On top of this, they welcome back Peter Molloy (Trinity) – fourth in 2021 – after a year abroad.
The Dark Blues, however, should put up a very stern challenge as they field a very experienced side, six of whom ran in their agonising two-point defeat last year. Joe Morrow (Queen’s) is likely to be their spearhead again and he should be able to call on very solid support from Thomas Wood (St. Anne’s) and Naphtali Moulton (St. Antony’s). Alex Gruen (Keble), returning after four years away, should also be right up with them. The remainder of their side has a very solid look to it with plenty of experience of the unique challenges of the common.
The outcome of the team race is very much in the balance and it should be a good one for the spectator.