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Inaugural Sports Awards Holders' and College Sports Captains' Reception

The Mistress, Fellows, McGrath family and Sports Awards holders group picture

At the end of Easter Term 2023 with the wonderful backdrop of the College playing fields and the John Marks Pavilion, the Mistress and the Sports Awards Committee hosted the inaugural Sports Awards Holders' and College Sports Captains' Reception.

Sport has been an important aspect of College life right from Girton's inception as the UK’s first residential college offering higher education to women. College appointed a physical education supervisor as early as 1874!  Stables and a gymnasium were created in 1873, the swimming pool in 1899, and a nine-hole golf course (near Mare’s Run) in 1891. Physical recreation and sports competition is recorded at Girton, and at Newnham, only two or three years after women students first came to Cambridge. The first recorded Cambridge women's matches against Oxford 'double-handed tennis' were in 1882, only one year after the first men's inter-varsity competition. 

The College’s Sports Awards grants are available to help with contributions toward sport-related expenses incurred while students participate in their chosen sport at university level or above. There are special named awards, including the Joan McGrath Sports Award, the Robin Sports Award and the Diana Lees-Jones Sports Award. The Robin Prize is named by Susan Hunt who was an undergraduate in the 1970s. She played many sports while at Girton and went on to be Director of Strategy and Programme Management of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The late Diana Lees-Jones was an undergraduate at Girton in the 1950s. Diana was a member of the University ski team as an undergraduate and having enjoyed her time at Girton enormously, was keen to continue to support sport at Girton. The Joan McGrath Sports Award, which is named for the late Joan McGrath who was a keen sportswoman as an undergraduate at Girton in the 1950s and throughout her life. She won Half-Blues for cricket and lacrosse in 1952 and represented the College at table tennis and tennis. This award was donated in memoriam for Joan by the McGrath family, through her husband Gerald.

We were honoured to welcome Ilana, Andrew and Ian  Joan’s daughter and grandsons  to Girton who joined us all the way from Canada for this event to help give out the awards.

The winners for this year's named awards were:

Robin Award – Adam Dray
Adam is a middle distance runner who has had an exceptional season on the track. Earlier in the year they placed 5th in the 800m final at the BUCS indoor athletics championships. They then went on to represent the Achilles, a historic joint Cambridge and Oxford athletics club, in a tour to the United States where they came 4th in the 800m in the Harvard and Yale meet, and 1st in the Penn and Cornell competition. Back in the UK, at the Wilberforce Road Athletics Track, Cambridge just lost out to Oxford overall in the Athletics Varsity Match, however, Adam came a close second to the other Cambridge runner in the Blues 800m race, then ran in the 400m Blues race before running in the 4x400m race at the end of the day.

Robin Award Lucy Steele
Lucy took up Modern Pentathlon in Cambridge and over the last two years has competed in the Blues Varsity Match, earning personal bests in the swim and combined events. Pentathlon is a unique event as it combines swimming, running, shooting, fencing and horse riding, and you have to excel at all five to compete successfully. Lucy has done just this, in particular focusing this year on improving her fencing, where she competed in BUCS matches specifically for fencing, and horse riding. All of the hard work paid off, with Cambridge winning women's and men's, 1st and 2nd team Varsity Matches, earning them a nomination for Team of the Year at the University Sports Awards.

Robin Award Jeremy Dempsey
Jeremy is another University athlete and runner. He has competed in Blues athletics and cross country and in the dark days of winter won the Cross Country Varsity Match and led the team to a narrow one point win. In the spring he toured the US on the Achilles tour, winning several races, before returning to competition in the UK where he came a close second in the BUCS athletics championships 1500m race, only beaten to gold by a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist! As well as competing at a top level, Jeremy helps to run the athletics club as competition secretary, and the Hawks Club, where he is vice president this year. Perhaps the pinnacle of our prize winners season came a few weeks ago in the Athletics Varsity Match where they won the 1500m Blues race in a time of 3m46, almost 20s ahead of the next runner.

Diana Lees-Jones Award Anna Leeson
Anna captained the women's Water Polo team for the second time. In this role they organize all of the team’s training and coaching and ultimately lead the side in everything they do throughout the year. The Water Polo team compete in BUCS premier South which means matches every week and on top of this the team train most days, including an intensive strength and conditioning programme. Anna has played Water Polo for over a decade and as well as representing Cambridge, she has won the national championships with Crystal Palace and has trained as part of the England Talent group. In the end, despite a very successful season, a close Varsity Match just went the wrong way, however this award recognizes Anna's dedication to the team and her role as team captain.

Joan McGrath Uday Modhwadia
Uday is a Blues cricketer who is in his third year representing Cambridge at the top level. He is Cambridge’s leading pace bowler and last summer represented Leicestershire 2nd XI, picking up 14 wickets at an average of 25.1, this is just one step away from professional cricket and shows the level that our winner competes at. The Blues cricketers play three matches against Oxford over the summer and at the time of this event the 50-over and 4-day game had yet to take place. However, Cambridge did win the 20-over match, held at Lords this year, in thrilling style with a successful chase of 176 in 20-overs. Central to this victory was Uday’s bowling spell which resulted in 2 wickets which changed the momentum of the game. As well as all of this top-level success it is great that Uday found time to support Girton cricket, playing in Cuppers games, competing superbly and passing on his experience to the rest of the team.

Joan McGrath Toby Green
Toby was this year's captain of the Cambridge University Rugby Football League club. Throughout Michaelmas and Lent term the team play in weekly matches and the captain is responsible for arranging three training sessions a week. On top of this, our winner has also coached the women's Varsity squad. All of this hard work has paid off and the men's 1st team had a great year, winning the league, making the National Cup semi-finals, and beating Oxford 1412 in the Varsity Match in March.

We are grateful to all those who attended this event. It was a wonderful chance to recognise the impressive achievements of our sporting students and it was an opportunity to thank the sports captains for all their efforts in keeping the tradition of sport, whether social or competitive, alive at Girton.

Inaugural Sports Awards Holders' and College Sports Captains' Reception 2023