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MODERN PENTATHLON - Varsity 2016 Match Report

The EY Modern Pentathlon Match took place on 25th and 26th March at Tonbridge School. 2016 saw the Cambridge Ladies victorious, and the Gentlemen narrowly defeated. Each team consisted of 6 athletes with particularly notable performances from fresher Henry Choong and 5th year vet Alice Watson. The competition commenced on Good Friday with the Ladies’ Fence in the morning, the afternoon saw the Gentlemen fence, with the swim for all athletes in the evening. Saturday kept both competitors and spectators on the edge of their seats, with the exciting show jumping phase followed by the combined event (run and shoot).

The match was opened on the morning of Good Friday with Olympic commentator introducing the competition, athletes and the generous match sponsors EY. At this point all athletes were attempting to contain their bubbling nerves for the impending excitement. First up was the Ladies’ fence, where Oxford took an early lead, leaving them 320 points ahead at the end of the fence. Top athletes for Cambridge were Alice Watson and novice athlete Claire Worrall, both scoring 13/22 hits and placing joint 4th. The tension ramped up as the Gentlemen donned their whites, picked up their epees and began to fight. The most exciting moment was claimed by 6th year veteran James Alexander, with a commando-style evasion of an Oxford athlete. The event culminated in a resounding victory for top athlete Henry Choong, winning 17/22 hits, closely followed by 2015 Varsity champion Paul Hodgson with 16 hits. Oxford Gentlemen took the lead in this phase with a 360 point lead.

With both Oxford teams in the lead heading into the swim, Cambridge had a lot to prove. Sadly the Oxford Ladies trumped again in this phase, gaining a further 236 point lead on Cambridge. Top athlete for Cambridge was Ali Simon with a time of 2:28 over the 200m course, gaining her 3rd place. For the first time in current athletes’ memory, the Cambridge Gentlemen won the swim phase with a solid 236 point margin. Henry Choong again excelled in this event, setting a new Varsity record time of 1:54 over the 200m course with defending Varsity champion Paul Hodgson in third.

Overnight saw the Oxford Ladies sitting comfortably ahead with a 556 point lead, and the Oxford Gentlemen only 124 points ahead. All athletes knew everything was still to play for. The Cambridge Ladies managed to keep their cool heading into the show jumping phase. The end result was a Cambridge Ladies’ victory over Oxford by 806 points, setting them 250 points ahead going into the combined. Notable performances were from Equestrian captain, Holly Mason and Claire Worrall, in 2nd and 3rd respectively. With the Gentlemen pretty much neck and neck, and with several difficult horses, the outcome of the Gentlemen’s ride was far from certain. The Oxford Captain withdrew, giving Cambridge a glimmer of hope; however an unfortunate fall for Cambridge Captain Anthony Shillito in the warm up arena, left him out of action and unable to ride or run. Overall this meant only 5 men from either side scored for the ride, and with Oxford generally having the much better luck, winning the event by 900 points. Top athlete for Cambridge, was experienced athlete James Alexander, with two poles down, in 2nd place, closely followed by Henry Choong in 3rd.

The blustery weather did not lend itself to a pleasant experience for spectators during the combined event; however, closely fought battles in both the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s competitions meant the weather was all but forgotten as screams of GDBO and Cambridge echoed around the sports fields of Tonbridge School. The combined event consists of a shoot and run, where 5 targets are shot down followed by a 1 km run, repeated 3 times. The Ladies’ event saw Cambridge Ladies Captain Hannah Clifford take an early lead with an outstanding first shoot of 30 seconds, taking her first out of the range, with Alice Watson hot on her heels. As the event progressed Hannah battled the leading Oxford athlete for 1st/2nd place and Alice fought (almost literally) another of the Dark Blues for 3rd/4th. The final result was Hannah 2nd with a resounding win in the shoot, and Alice 3rd and 2nd in the shoot. The Cambridge Ladies dominated the shoot, gaining a further 544 point lead. Overall the Cambridge Ladies won the final event by 424 points, making them 2016 Varsity Champions by a respectable 672 points. Individually Alice Watson placed 2nd, achieved her Full Blue score and won the Ladies’ skills trophy for the combined score of her fence, ride and shoot. All other Cambridge athletes achieved Half Blue scores with Jenni Scurr 4th, Hannah Clifford 5th, Ali Simon 7th, Claire Worrall 9th and Holly Mason 10th.

The event culminated with the Gentlemen’s combined event, with spectacularly fast times from all athletes. For this event reserve, and club President, Kshitij Sabnis took the place of Anthony Shillito. First out of the range were Cambridge athletes Henry Choong and Freddy Bunbury, with James Alexander 2 seconds later. The front of the race was tightly competed by Henry Choong and 2 Oxford athletes vying for top position. Cambridge again dominated the shoot by 348 points, however Oxford had the edge in the run. This meant Cambridge did not make up their deficit, and left Oxford ahead at the end. Nonetheless, in a high quality competition, Henry Choong won individually with a Varsity Record score of 5,772; he also won the trophies for best fence, shoot and best skills. 2015 Champion Paul Hodgson took 4th, James Alexander 7th, Freddy Bunbury 9th, Josh Briegal 10th and Anthony Shillito/Kshitij Sabnis combination 12th .

Overall this was a fantastic competition made possible by our generous sponsors EY, the time and enthusiastic support donated by Old Blues, and of course the direction of commentator Tristan Robbie. Thanks must also go to Alex Fraser for organising the event, and Tonbridge School for being a fantastic venue for the event. Congratulations to all reserve athletes for their performances in the reserve competition this year, and a huge thank you for all the support they provided during the event. This year we say a special goodbye to James Alexander, grandfather of the team, having been on the team for 6 years; to Ali Simon for 4 years of service and to Jenni Scurr for 2 years in the club.