By Will Jennings
With the apogee of the BUCS season looming, Durham will travel to the annual finals on Wednesday afternoon in considerable numbers following a year of remarkable success for the university.
After two terms characterised by tenacity, grit and unrelenting determination, no fewer than 18 teams from Durham have qualified to participate in the BUCS Big Wednesday Championship Finals in Nottingham this week. Indeed, this is testament to the hours of hard work and intensive training that will have almost certainly been visible to any student who has spent any time down at Maiden Castle since October.
The 18-strong contingent was confirmed last week following a dramatic triumph for Durham women’s basketball team over Edinburgh, a late 71-69 victory that ensured that 2018 would mark a record year for sport at the University.
The women’s basketball team became the 13th side to qualify for the Championship’s top tier finals, while five further teams from Durham will make the journey to Nottingham to compete in the second tier finals. The prospect of a thrilling end to the gruelling BUCS campaign is surely one that Team Durham’s top brass will be licking their lips with anticipation at.
Indeed, Director of Experience Durham Quentin Sloper stated that ‘we are proud of everything our student athletes, coaches and support staff have achieved so far this year’, going onto speak of the way in which Durham has a proven reputation of ‘building leaders’ and facilitating students’ ability to ‘excel when under pressure.’
Sloper’s sentiments are corroborated by the wide range of teams who have qualified for this year’s finals, with Durham sending representatives to Nottingham in a series of sports ranging from hockey, tennis and football to fencing, water polo and lacrosse.
While men’s teams such as hockey, tennis, water polo, fencing and lacrosse have qualified for the coveted Big Wednesday event, women’s sports will see teams from basketball, football, lacrosse and table tennis make the three hour journey south from the north-east. Furthermore, women’s teams in water polo, volleyball and tennis will also travel to the East Midlands.
Although a record year for Durham, this is merely the natural culmination of what has been a sustained period of sporting success. Since 2011, the university has been ranked second in the overall BUCS Points Table, while since 2013 Durham has been rated as the UK’s leading team sport university. This year’s record will therefore come as no surprise to the more well-informed members of the university’s sporting community.
Sloper continued in his praise of Durham’s athletes and coaches, stating this year’s success was the reward for ‘their hard work and qualities as both leaders and team players.’ Sloper was equally keen to praise Durham’s sportsmen and women for ‘stepping up to the plate in the most emphatic fashion’, continuing to enhance the university’s longstanding tradition of sporting prowess and achievement.
With the season-defining event just around the corner, all teams participating from Durham will be waiting with bated breath. Big Wednesday beckons, with the finals marking the climax of a triumphant year for the university and providing our elite athletes with the opportunity to showcase their ability on a bigger stage. Whatever the outcome, we as a student body should unite and be proud of them all.
Photograph: Durham University