The South East head to Nottingham for this year’s National Championships with a full complement of athletes, as they look to wrestle the Wilkinson Sword Trophy off their rivals in the South West.
The South East finished second last time out in Tyne and Wear, and are certainly shaping up to be strong contenders once again, with 14 different colleges from across the region set to be represented in Nottingham.
Last year’s result: 2nd place
Colleges representing the region in 2017: Barton Peveril College, Bexhill College, Brockenhurst College, Chichester College, Farnborough Sixth Form College, Godalming College, Havant College, Itchen Sixth Form College, Peter Symonds College, Queen Mary’s College, Reigate College, Richard Taunton Sixth Form College, South Downs College, Worthing College
Star athlete: Bexhill College student Joshua Bennett might be heading to the Championships for the first time, but there will be a lot of expectation on him to emerge with a medal in the table tennis event.
The 17-year-old A-Level student has already represented England Schools four times, winning two golds, three silvers and bronze medals. Joshua has also played for England twice this year, and at the most recent Junior Nationals, won gold in the team event, silver in the doubles and bronze in the singles.
Sports Development Manager, Adam Hurley, said: “Josh knows Nationals will be a challenge especially with the expectation for him to do well. Josh is used to big tournaments and I’m sure he will perform on the big stage. We’re all proud of Josh at Bexhill College, we know how hard he trains and what a fantastic role model he’s been to other players at the college. Josh has been working with coach Craig Bryant during college hours to compliment his main training outside of college. Hopefully with these additional hours we should see a step up in Josh’s performances this year.”
One to watch: For the first time in a number of years, the South East will be represented in the LD football event at the National Championships, through South Downs College.
According to College Sport Maker Kirsty Taylor, the players to look out for include captain Josh Wells with his blistering pace and never-say-die attitude, Dan Palmer who despite being in his first year at the college has brought a goalscoring touch to the team, and goalkeeper Max who only conceded one goal in the regional tournament.
The team are preparing for the National Championships with three-hour football and fitness sessions during the half-term and Easter break leading up to the tournament, as well as attending regular sessions during the term time. They have also been invited to play in a friendly organised by the students of Sparsholt College, which will give the team more game time.
Kirsty Taylor said: “We are quietly optimistic about how the team will get on at the National Championships. We are super excited as staff to have the opportunity to take the team and give them the opportunity to participate in sport outside of the college. It doesn’t matter what the results of the games are, just that all the team have an enjoyable time.
“The students are very excited about taking part - we told them after Christmas once we knew we had qualified and were also able to confirm the finances for the event. The changes in academic attitude as well as time-keeping, and general behaviour in some cases have seen huge improvement for the students involved.”
National Championships veterans: Peter Symonds College netball team will be heading to the Championships once again this year, having come away with a bronze medal from Tyne and Wear.
Six members of that medal-winning squad will be returning to this year’s Championships, providing vital experience of the weekend and tournament format for the new players.
Captain Lydia Kearney and Meg Somerville are both playing in the AoC Sport National Squad this year, while vice-captain Darcey Spurge plays in the senior Southern Region Squad along with goalkeeper Sophie Lyon and shooter Grace Thomson.
It is certainly a strong squad, but Head Coach Kim Skene says the performance of the team in Nottingham will be more important than silverware.
“The aim of the squad from the moment it is put together in September is to play well as a team, enjoy the netball, and improve performance. We have had a successful year winning the Hampshire League unbeaten, getting to the regional finals of the National Schools and we are in the final 8 of the AoC Sport Cup.
“Last year we finished a fantastic third at the National Championships, and we would like to medal again. However the focus is always on performance, not trophies. The players are encouraged to concentrate on what their role is in the team to take the ball through to goal.”
What they say: “Everyone at Bexhill College is extremely proud of the success achieved at this year’s AoC Sport regional tournament. The college is pleased to be able to support players and help them progress within their sports alongside their studies. The National Championships will be a fantastic experience, especially for the players that haven’t been to an event of this size. We are excited to see how they get on and look forward to regular updates over the weekend.
“First year student Joshua Bennett will be attending his first AoC Sport National Championships and will look to continue Bexhill’s strong table tennis performances over the past three years that have produced gold and silver medals. We are also excited to have our first team sport qualify for a few years, where we will see our newly formed 2016/17 women’s volleyball team take the stage after an unbeaten run in the South East Regionals. Finally, after starting a women’s rugby programme at the college three years ago it has gone from strength to strength, and we are now proud that one of our players – Heather Jury - has made the South East team.
Adam Hurley, Sports Development Manager, Bexhill College