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125 years of Achilles-US Ivy League combat returns
Covid caused a backlog, but seven universities have enjoyed a flurry of competition in the summer of 2023
[All images by Andy Hodge. Here PC’s Olivia Morganti creams a 6:42 for a dominant win in the ‘Chase at Iffley Road]
After the longest cessation of hostilities in some 80 years, the historic annual matches of Harvard & Yale and Penn & Cornell vs Oxford & Cambridge have been reintroduced on these shores. Birmingham University have also engaged in a entertaining five-way match, with all entries, match scores and live competition handled by OpenTrack.
Bridget Wheeler, Transatlantic Series Director, sets the scene of Penn/Cornell vs Achilles on the summer solstice at Oxford:
“So I will give this a go. It was a day of what might have been. The [Achilles] men last won this match in 1966 and the women have never won. The visitors were not at full strength. They had flown in only 48 hours before the match. If ever there was a chance...”
What followed was an absorbing and tense with the result for the men on a knife-edge right up until the relays.
Bridget continues: “With scores constantly changing at one stage it seemed that the men could not lose - but in spite of the teamwork the dream did not work. A loss in the 4x400 which had seemed eminently winnable on paper sealed the fate of the mens' team, and emphatic wins by the visitors in the Pole vault turned a tie into a loss. It was so close - it was achievable - there is still Harvard and Yale...
It was a great day- as always officiated immaculately - with tremendous team spirit.
It is indeed worth noting that another critical event, the 4 x 100 was commandeered by our American cousins by the wafer thin margin of 42.02 to 42.17.
The top 5 performances at this thrilling meeting, automatically deduced and produced by OpenTrack were:
Kaesi Opara [OC] 10.91
Dylan Throop [PC] 14:09.79
Aaron Stillitano [PC] 11.01
Angus Harrington [OC] 1:54.16
Kaesi Opara [OC] 21.88
The Big 5 - for the day
Three days later the touch paper was really lit at Edgbaston with a match entitled, “The Big Five”. A nice line in Brummie hyperbole perhaps as the four US universities took on Birmingham, but not each other on this occasion as NCAA rules mean the Americans cannot "compete against each other" outside of US competition structures, even though they were running in the same physical races, so it was two matches.
The results saw Birmingham Uni see off Harvard and Yale by a dominant 175 to 91, but have to narrowly bow to Penn & Cornell in a thriller, 137-145.
As is so often the case it was a great Field event that saw PC settle their account, in this case the Shot, where after HY’s Kolesnikoff had thrashed all and sundry with his first hurl of the day [19.48], Messrs Abinusawa and and Harman of PC proved too strong for Birmingham’s putters.
Four athletes went sub 11 for the 100, with HY’s Lance Ward finding 10.75, aged 20.
Act 3 stunner
Finally, on June 28th there was yet another thriller as Harvard & Yale brushed themselves down and journied across to the hallowed portals of the Wilberforce Road, Cambs, where a vintage affair ensued. It was decided to score the day simply on events won and lost, and with 19 events on offer it went down to just a single discipline for the Men, and the “barest of all margins” to insert a well known cricket term into the piece.
Going into the relays, Achilles held the edge 9-8, but could they get that baton round on top in either race? The 4 by 100 was extremely close, and HY found a fine 41:07 to edge clear by quarter of a second, so it was 9-9 and a big drum roll.
It was another high-quality race but with 3:12 to 3:14 the Americans took the day, to cap a superb tour all round. The ladies of Harvard and Yale were more dominant with a 12-7 winning margin. Congratulations to our visitors.
Some individual highlights in Cambridge included Opara and Ward upping the ante in the 100 with 10.54 and 10.56, and Opera then finding a 21.23 for the 200.
OpenTrack is delighted to have overseen the competition management, with easy entries (as seen below), live results and live team scores, and it’s wonderful to see such historic and traditional competitions return with such quality and gusto.
Here are all the results as presented by OpenTrack:
Match 1, PC vs Achilles
Match 3, HY vs Achilles