Resurrected, reformatted, reinvigorated. Much has changed to the countenance of Varsity this year, but one thing has remained the same – the outcome.
The University of York’s resounding 91.25-19.25 victory might, in the eyes of some, raise more questions than answers about the tournament’s competitiveness, but few will doubt its utility. While the event, even when it is enthusiastically publicised and well-executed, will always play second fiddle to the Roses battle against Lancaster, it is a useful hors d’oeuvre to the summer term’s main course.
The University’s sports teams treat Varsity as a warm-up for the trip across the Pennines, giving freshers an opportunity to experience something with a little more meaning that the average Wednesday afternoon, and, for this and many other reasons, this year’s reincarnation should secure its long-term future, despite the one-sided scoreline.
Congratulations should go to Emily Scott and the York Sport committee for successfully bringing the competition back, despite the considerable hurdles they have had to overcome this weekend. Under pressure to ensure the event was well-supported and, more importantly, profitable, they were handicapped by the weather conditions as the outdoor rowing, rugby and football fixtures were cancelled amid heavy rain.
However, two of these events were salvaged, albeit in more confined spaces, and proved to be unlikely highlights of the weekend – the indoor football and rowing ‘Erg-off’ attracting large, boisterous crowds. The action was supplemented by two events, on the Friday and Sunday evenings, to foster relations between the two institutions which, early indications suggest, did break even financially.
Billy Walsh hurdles an opponent during the men’s hockey firsts fixture, which St. John, despite an early sending off, won 3-1. Photograph by Peter Iveson.
Brian Cantor, speaking at the closing ceremony on Sunday evening, perhaps conveyed the tournament’s enduring significance most eloquently. “It had been great to reinvigorate the Varsity tournament,” the York University Vice-Chancellor said.
“We have had over 850 students taking part, which shows the event is clearly popular and important to the city’s sporting calendar. The City of York is dominated by its universities, which provide such vibrancy and youth, energy and commitment. Varsity is a great thing for both universities and for the city.”
The figure of 850 participants is encouraging and while, in contrast to Professor Cantor’s words, the city will remain oblivious to its existence for the time being, the true scope of Varsity is in the numbers taking part. The best example of this was the Netball College Barbarians side who, despite having a matter of days to prepare, defeated St. John’s fourths, a side who compete in BUCS competition, by an unbelievable 53-6 margin. It was a result that not only demonstrated the strength in depth of the Netball Club, whose clean sweep of four victories on Sunday formed the backbone to York’s win, but the potential of our College Sport set-up.
Action from the mixed badminton event. York University again showed their prowess in this racquet sport. Photograph by Peter Iveson.
Split over two days for the first time, an organisational ploy to ensure last year’s unfortunate clashes with BUCS fixtures were not repeated, the Saturday saw events staged right across the city. York University, rather like they had done on the first day of Roses 2009, wasted little time in establishing a commanding lead.
Dominant showings in the climbing, held at Acomb’s Oaklands Leisure Centre, and the rowing, staged on machines in the Tent, plus a number of wins at the swimming meant that, in the overall context, Sunday was always going to be a formality for the University.
And so it proved. The scheduling of the racquet sports, traditionally among York’s strongest, on the Sunday morning enabled an insurmountable lead to be built, and the destination of the trophy was mathematically guaranteed at around lunchtime.
The Tennis Club were so confident of victory, they had first team players moonlighting in the seconds, but it was the women’s matches which most startlingly illustrated the gulf in class as the St. John pairing struggled to find any rhythm – their serves drooping woefully into the net time after time.
The men’s volleyball, which York University took in straight sets, was part of a clean sweep of wins in this event. Photograph by Peter Iveson.
Netball aside, there were also whitewashes in the badminton, volleyball and basketball, meaning an uncomfortable couple of moments for Gary Milner, the St. John Vice President of Student Activities, at the closing ceremony as he reeled off a list of defeats for his teams.
Milner was dignified despite the 71-point reverse, although it made his optimistic pre-tournament predictions seem foolish, and made a point which will resonate with many at both universities. “These are the best times of our university lives,” he said.
Although his hopes of picking up points right across the board proved beyond St. John’s teams, he can be proud of their showings in the football and hockey, where they at least matched York’s number of wins. These were, understandably, the best supported events, drawing large crowds onto the Astroturf despite the rain and drizzle.
For Emily Scott, the weekend provided much more than the chance to tick off another election promise, it was a vindication of a tournament that could quite easily have been consigned to history. “It has been a great weekend, everyone was fantastic,” was really all she had to say.