The finest athletes Birmingham have to offer underwent their annual pilgrimage to Sheffield for the 2017 BUCS Nationals, which promised to be a happy hunting ground once more after last year’s resounding successes. BurnFM’s committed reporters were determined to capture all of the weekend’s action.
In the impressive aquatics arena at Pond’s Forge, UBSport’s Swimming Club were once again well represented by a large squad looking to build upon last year’s promising performance. Under the ever-present guidance of Head Coach Gary Humpage, the club were once again looking to put in a strong performance at BUCS’ showpiece Swimming event.
UB Sport Scholar Ffion Butler put in an impressive performance in the Para-Swimming category, collecting the entire palette of medals having secured Bronze in the 50m freestyle, Silver in the 100m freestyle and Gold in the 100m backstroke.
A staggering PB of 8:46.53 launched Abby Smith into a respectable 5th place in the 800m freestyle, which was a jump of three places from her 8th place finish last ear. Significantly her time has qualified her for this event at the British Championships, which is hugely exciting. Not content with this achievement alone, Abby went on to achieve Bronze in the 400m freestyle, once again smashing her PB and qualifying her again for the coveted Championships. Her busy weekend continued in the 200m freestyle, which she once again beat her PB to secure an 11th place finish.
Head Coach Gary Humpage reserved some glowing praise for Abby:
“With Abby, those that are familiar with her know that she tends to deliver on the big stages, however to claim an individual medal within swimming – which, as history would show us, is a hard enough task as it is! – along with two National Qualifying times and PBs across the board whilst battling against persistent health problems and injuries is nothing short of inspirational.”
Lizzy Gray also stood out with impressive performances in the her individual events, as well as the team relays. She secured PB’s in the 100m butterfly and 50m butterfly, as well as club records in the former and another in the 100m freestyle leading off the relay.
Emily Lane was determined not to be outdone by her teammates and achieved a PB and club record in the 100m backstroke and another huge PB in the 50m backstroke. Abby Gee must also be mentioned for her 7th place finish in the 200m butterfly after a season blighted by long-term ankle injuries, which ultimately resulted in an operation.
Zoe Bozzard-Hill unfortunately was unable to better 7th place in the 50m freestyle and 11th in the 100m freestyle. Unfortunately Zoe has been hampered by a persistent elbow injury
The women’s team secured 4th overall and contributed a massive 111/200 points scored at Nationals. The club’s achievements have to be put in perspective as they were up against top-performing Swimming universities who already have 50m swimming training facilities. The club will be extremely hopeful that they will be able to better their impressive performance this year when they move into their new home.
The success was not restricted the just Birmingham’s swimmers, as Birmingham’s athletes also collected a haul of medals
at the impressive English Institute of Sport.
Birmingham’s weekend got off to an impressive start when UB Scholar Jack Porter blasted a way from the field in the 60m Hurdle Final to secure the Athletics Club their first Gold medal of the weekend. Determined not to be outdone by the men, the first year Charlotte Orton finished in an impressive 7th place in the 60m sprint race against some very talented opposition. Birmingham’s weekend had well and truly been ignited on the Friday.
Nick Cruchley added another medal to Birmingham’s growing collection in the Men’s Pole Vault final with a massive jump of 5.30m to claim Bronze. Thing got even better for Birmingham when Lawrence Walker claimed Gold in the triple jump with a lifetime best performance to set the new threshold of 16m. This was a welcome return to form for the man recently returning from injury. His achievement cannot be expressed enough as winning jump of 16.01 not only breaks the coveted barrier for him personally, but is also a University Club Record and places him third in the UK at the moment in the rankings.
They say that finishing 4th is the toughest position for any athlete and unfortunately for Mickey Drippers this was the case in a very physical 800m final, in which he narrowly missed out on adding to Birmingham’s medal tally. Credit must go to Akin Coward who added important points to Birmingham’s tally by finishing 5th with a lovely 2.01m jump. In the gruelling 1500m, Naomi Collier ran beautifully to finish in second place.
Further credit must be given to Talent ID Olivia Connor who finished 5th in the pole vault with a massive PB. Similarly, Sam Milner finished 8th in the shot put, which is a huge achievement considering that it is far from her favourite event and has been struggling with a back a back injury recently. Sam also played a substantial role off the track as she served as the team’s physio for the entire weekend. Sam’s contribution to the overall effort of the team therefore has to be applauded.
The BUCS Nationals Badminton competition saw 2,460 shuttles being used, 720
players and 691 matches. After all of this Nikki Gresty and Anette Martin stood on their third-tier of the podium having claimed Bronze in the Ladies Double. A massive achievement in a field that was so hotly contested.
The highlight from a Birmingham perspective from Saturday’s action came when there was an all-Birmingham woman’s doubles tie between the pairs of Nicola Gresty and Annette Martin, and Tilly Ip and Imogen Langford. In the end, it was the seeded pair of Gresty and Martin who came out on top.
For the first time in BurnFM’s history, the reporters headed to the ICE to provide coverage on the Trampolining. We were blown away by the awesome spectacle that both the organisers and competitors put on.
Fantastic atmosphere here at the trampolining for the finals pic.twitter.com/M2Nz107cVy
— BurnFM Sport (@BurnFM_Sport) February 18, 2017
Unfortunately in the final Josh Morris-Hill’s excellent performance narrowly missed out on a medal in the elite men;s final, which must have been heartbreaking for the lad who gave it his very all. However, the same cannot be said for David Beany who put in a stunning effort to claim Bronze in the same event. Heroic effort from the two Lions.
Saturday saw a day of high standard competition in the Karate, with all Kata and team Kumite events taking place. Birmingham entered twelve competitors, many of whom competed in more than one event.
The first half of the day was devoted to all Kata events, beginning with the mixed team Kata. Birmingham entered an all female trio of Melina Mukherjee, Chloe Sutherland, and Alice Whittaker, and they performed above expectations, achieving a commendable fourth place finish.
Unfortunately their success wasn’t repeated in the individual Kata, with Mukherjee and Yannoulias beaten in the first round, and Whittaker, Xardone, and Mitev all exiting at the second round.
The afternoon session saw the team Kumite take place. The male quintuplet of Rob Norman (captain), David Thomas, Kyle Semple, Vas Yannoulias and Tom Durn had ambitions of medalling, and began the competition in style, easily winning their first three matches. Unfortunately they came up against a very strong Coventry side in the fourth round, and their task was made harder when captain Norman sustained an injury to his hand, leaving him unable to continue. Without Norman the team also succumbed to a repechage defeat at the hands of Nottingham.
The female team of Poppy Balmer, Megan Gates and Chloe Sutherland progressed through round one, but were defeated in the second round, rounding off a mixed day for Birmingham Karate.
(Karate report by John Rogers)
BUCS Nationals proved yet again to be a happy hunting ground for the Birmingham athletes who achieved a wide range of medals spread out across many disciplines and sports, and looked competitive in every event competed in. The medal haul alone shows explicitly the depth of talent at Birmingham’s disposal, however, this does not fully reflect the generosity each athlete showed to us, all of whom were more than willing to give us interviews and chat about their performances, whether they had been successful or not.