12 colleges will be heading to Nottingham next week to represent the Eastern region at this year’s National Championships.
Coming off the back of a fifth-placed finish last year, the region will be hopeful of getting among the medals this time out.
Last year’s result: 5th
Colleges representing the region in 2017: Cambridge Regional College, Chelmsford College, Colchester Sixth Form College, East Norfolk Sixth Form College, Easton and Otley College, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Long Road Sixth Form College, Lowestoft Sixth Form College, Palmer’s College, Seevic, South Essex College, Suffolk New College.
Star athlete: Thomas Pudney from South Essex College will be among the favourites for the men’s singles tennis title next week in Nottingham.
The 19-year-old is no stranger to the National Championships stage, having reached the semi-finals last year in Newcastle, narrowly missing out on a podium place – and that was while carrying an injury which meant he was originally only due to play one match.
Hopefully injury-free this time out, both Thomas and College Sport Maker Jason Baker, believe he is certainly in with a shot at gold.
Baker said: “Tom exceeded our expectations last year, he was only meant to play one game because of his injury but his dedication to the sport shone through and he ended up in the semi-finals.
“This year, we’re incredibly excited to see how far Tom can go in the competition. He’s got a great chance of taking home the title.”
Thomas is a member of Thorpe Bay Tennis Club in Essex, ranking high as an under-18 junior. The Level 3 Sport Science student has won many Essex County division titles with his men’s team, and has also played in lots of national and international tournaments, so will be comfortable with the pressure of the big stage.
Thomas said: “The thing I like about tennis is it’s difficult and so unpredictable. Hopefully if I can stay injury free this time, I think I’ve got a chance. I’m excited to qualify again and get another shot at winning!”
One to watch: Leo Huang of Hills Road Sixth Form College will face stiff competition in this year’s badminton men’s singles competition, but that shouldn’t faze the 17-year-old.
Leo travelled to Newcastle for last year’s National Championships in what proved to be an incredibly strong field, with five of his rivals competing regularly at county level – three in senior sides.
And the standard of the field reflected in the final standings, with Leo finishing only above his opponent from London.
But that could all change this time out in Nottingham, with Leo heading to the Championships with the benefit of last year’s experience, as well as another 12 months of training and development under his belt.
National Championships veterans: Seevic’s men’s rugby team have qualified for the AoC Sport National Championships for a number of years.
Eight of their squad took part in Tyne and Wear last year, so are well versed in the National Championships and will be keen to go one better than the silver medal they took home from last year’s event.
The team has been flying high during 2016/17, and are still involved in the AoC Sport Premier League play-offs, having beaten Queen Elthelburgas in the semi-final to make the play-off final for the second year running.
But their success in AoC Sport competitions so far doesn’t mean they will be a shoo-in for a medal in Nottingham, with other trophies also on their minds.
“The team has also reached the final of the Essex Cup, so prior to the Easter break the players have been focused on 15s,” explained Head of Learning for Sport, Craig Davidson.
“Preparations have been hectic to say the least, but I know head coach Danny Cleare has had the boys in over Easter to start our preparations for the 7s tournament.”
But despite having to focus on a number of events, their opponents shouldn’t expect to claim an easy scalp at next week’s Championships, as Seevic still have danger men on their side.
Winger George Griffiths is the main threat highlighted by Davidson.
“George has electric speed and is returning for a second year having been an important part of the squad that won the silver medal last year,” he said.
And while hopes at the Essex college are high for a gold medal this year, Davidson knows that at such a highly-competitive event, just finishing on the podium is an achievement.
“The team won an amazing silver medal at last years Championships, so a similar performance this year would be fantastic considering the high profile opponents in the competition, but we know that a medal of any colour is a great achievement and not easy to come by.”
What they say: "Seevic College always looks forward to the National Championships and competing for the East region as it is one of the most prestigious parts of our sporting calendar.
“As a college we normally find a medal from somewhere so we will be hoping to bring some silverware home again. But above all else I just want our students to have an amazing experience that they'll never forget and hopefully inspire them onto to further success as student-athletes.
“We have so many good memories as a college over the years of attending the National Championships and I'm sure this year will be no different."
Craig Davidson – Head of Learning for Sport, Seevic College