By George Bond
A record year of achievement for Team Durham has seen the university retain its status as the UK’s number one team sport programme. Durham secured a second-place finish in the overall BUCS league table for the sixth consecutive year, surging away from nearest challengers Edinburgh by adding more than 700 points to last year’s total to reach 4797 in total.
The vast increase reflects success across the board, with all three categories – league, cup and individual – seeing rises in points totals. Having fought off Loughborough to stay at the top of the team sport leaderboard, Durham were only denied top spot in the overall standings by the Midlands university’s dominant performances in the individual categories, which saw them run out convincing winners for a staggering 37th consecutive year.
Tennis has been Durham’s most successful sport this year, followed by fencing and lacrosse. Durham’s formidable tennis programme was victorious for both the men’s and women’s teams, who also both defeated Stirling in their respective national championships.
Both the men’s and women’s fencing 1sts also made it to their national finals, where the men were victorious and the women were narrowly defeated by Edinburgh.
Durham’s men’s lacrosse team delivered another flawless, undefeated campaign, finishing top of the Premiership for the eighth successive season, and claiming their seventh national championship in those eight years. Their success was capped off with victory over the England Senior Performance Squad, triumphing 11-9 at Maiden Castle.
The women’s lacrosse squad were equally impressive, dispatching all before them in their league campaign and holding off Exeter in the national championship game. The 2nds also picked up the BUCS WLAX Trophy, beating Cardiff 1sts 15-10 at BUCS Big Wednesday in March. In hockey, the men’s team’s astonishing unbeaten league season saw them win 18 of 18 and qualify for the end-of-season play-offs to enter English hockey’s Premier League. Although the club were not successful in gaining promotion, their success remains one of the highlights of this, or indeed any, Team Durham year.
Durham women’s hockey got all the way to the semi-finals of the national championship, before an agonising defeat to eventual runners-up Loughborough on penalty flicks. The 2nds also reached the semi-finals of the Trophy, after having also won their division.
At the BUCS Yachting Championships on the Solent, Durham’s sailing team became national champions for the first time ever. Taking the lead on the second of the event’s three-day, the Palatinates never relinquished control, putting in a commanding performance to seal the gold medal. The men’s and women’s water polo squads brought home championships from BUCS Big Wednesday, having both gone undefeated in 2016/17. For both teams, this was their first ever national title, pushing the sport up to sixth in terms of BUCS points accrued for Durham this year.
DURFC, currently in the middle of a three-week, seven-game tour of New Zealand, were selected to participate in the inaugural BUCS Super Rugby season. Having finished fourth after the league series, Durham reached the quarter-finals of the championship tournament, falling to Bath by just a single point.
In football, Durham women went unbeaten to claim the Premier North title, before sealing a league and cup double with a 4-3 win over Northumbria in the BUCS championship final. The men’s side narrowly missed out on a title of their own, after being beaten by Loughborough in the title deciding game.
Alongside numerous outstanding performances across various other sports, these results contributed to one of the most successful seasons in Team Durham history, cementing its reputation for producing some of the country’s top athletes. The university’s decision to prioritise sport in its new 10-year strategy came on the back of year-on-year improvements in both participation and performance levels, resulting in the full renovation of the Maiden Castle site over the next few years. This, coupled with rising funding, means that the challenge of overtaking Loughborough at the top of the BUCS leaderboard may not be as unthinkable as it may previously have appeared.