2016 British Universities & Colleges Sport League Women’s Preview

2 May 2015; Emma Cassidy, Sunday's Well, left, and Laoise Felming, Kells, compete in the final of the women's 200m backstroke event during the 2015 Irish Open Swimming Championships at the National Aquatic Centre, Abbotstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Photo Courtesy: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

By Sophia Chiang, Swimming World College Intern

The 2015 British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Short Course league championship meet saw a fast weekend of swimming with over a dozen of British, Scottish, and BUCS league records smashed at Ponds Forge International Sport Centre in Sheffield, England. The rest of the season looks equally good, too. The remainder of the season will bear witness to the BUCS Long Course Championships and to Team Championship Finals, as well as to the British National Championships which will double as the 2016 Olympic Games Trials, where many top BUCS athletes are expected to compete for a coveted Olympic spot.

Here are some universities that will shake the season up:

1. Loughborough


Photo Courtesy: British Universities & Colleges Sport Swimming

At the 2015 BUCS Short Course championship, Loughborough won nearly every single event of the meet, proving their team’s immense depth. Despite last year’s large graduating class, Loughborough has obviously recovered the loss of some of their top athletes and has continued to hold on to their 13-year BUCS title reign despite how Edinburgh and Stirling have nudged closer year after year to unseating them.

Loughborough’s women continue to do that legacy proud.

Watch out for freshman Emma Day who not only shook the field during short course championships but will be considered one of the U.K.’s top female prospects for the Olympic team, posting a recent personal best of 1:00.75 in her 100m fly and winning 2015 Short Course BUCS in the 200m fly in 2:09.40. Day has been fast tracked to the 2020 Olympic Team roster by British Swimming, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be a force to be reckoned with in qualifying for the 2016 team as well. Her club coach a Guildford City Swimming described Day as “an elite swimmer demonstrating key ingredients for success– natural talent, an amazing work ethic and ambition.”

Freshman Alice Dearing is also Olympic potential– winning a place on British Swimming’s World Class Podium Potential Programme, posting a personal best of 8:37.20 in the 800m freestyle this past November. Beth Aitchison is also a freshman breaststroke powerhouse, holding a 1:07.46 in the 100m breaststroke.

But Loughborough is more than just their freshman class. Senior Sophie Smith is at the top of her game in the 200m freestyle, and posted a 1:56.63 at BUCS Short Course finals to edge out veteran Olympians Anne Bochmann (Bath) and Aimee Wilmott (East London). Charlotte McKenzie (50m backstroke, 27.94; 100m backstroke, 1:00.30), Lauren Wray (200m backstroke, 2:11.17), and Lara Butler (200m backstroke, 2:14.38) will lead the women’s backstroke charge.

Loughborough has also been able to continually top the women’s freestyle, knocking out No. 2 Edinburgh by tenths of seconds and continuing to hold their territory, although they suffered a loss in the 200m medley relay this year.

2. Edinburgh


Photo Courtesy: Emma Day / British Swimming

Sophomore Lucy Hope exemplifies the new Edinburgh University Swimming Club regimen under head coach Chris Jones. The sophomore, a Scottish Gas Championship and a Commonwealth Games finalist in multiple events including the 50m backstroke (28.30), 200 freestyle (1:57.95), and 50m freestyle (25.42). Most recently, she tied for a win at the 2015 BUCS Short Course championships with Loughborough’s Sophie Smith in the 100m freestyle in 54.62. Well rounded and strong in both sprint and mid-distance events, Jones is attempting to build a program with top notch athletes that will rival Loughborough’s dominance.

If 2015 has been any indication, Jones is certainly on his way there.

Hope, alongside butterfly powerhouse Raquel Matos, are certainly the darlings of Scottish swimming. Grabbing disappointing second places finish at the 2015 Short Course Championships after being out touched by Loughborough senior Rachael Kelly in the 50m (Matos, 26.81, Kelly, 26.67) and 100m butterflies (Matos, 59.19; Kelly, 58.08) and sixth in the 200m butterfly (2:14.67), Matos will be out to claim her crown. Given that she has more than half of her college career still ahead of her, Matos certainly has opportunity to do so.

Emily Jones also brings some fierce competition to the table, clocking a 2:12.00 in her 200m IM this past November, grabbing a silver just a couple seconds after Smith in 2:10.65. Though she was noticeably absent from the 50m freestyle in short course, Jones clocked a 25.44 in Edinburgh’s 200m medley relay where Edinburgh pulled a win off Loughborough’s team by 0.02. A 25.44 would have placed Jones well in the top five in the 50m freestyle final.

But where Edinburgh truly succeeds is in the breaststroke events, where there is noticeably a dearth of Loughborough swimmers aside from junior Jocelyn Ulyett. While Ulyett does win most breaststroke events, Edinburgh demonstrates the depth of their program with consecutive second and third place finishes by Olivia White and Kathryn Johnstone, holding best times of 2:25.62 and 2:26.18, respectively, in the 200m breaststrokes. Johnstone won the 100m breaststroke this past year in a 1:06.54, holding off two Loughborough swimmers by over a full second to take gold.

What really predicts the Edinburgh programme’s rise are their relays, where they are beginning to top Loughborough, which they have never been able to do before.

3. Bath


Photo Courtesy: Lucy Hope / Scottish Gas Championships

Bath have experienced enormous growth in the past few years, accumulating more Olympic veterans, more BUCS medals, and more Commonwealth Games athletes than ever before.

Senior Anne Bochmann, a veteran Olympian who swam in London 2012 as a high school senior, is known for her strong finishes that claimed her a spot in the 400m IM in the last Commonwealth Games trials. After a back injury set her aside right before 2012, keeping her from swimming her trademark IMs, she consolidated her bid and came through in the 200m freestyle. Today, she’s a force to be reckoned with in that event, dropping a personal best of 1:57.34 this past November.

Freshman Shauntelle Austin is another powerful new force on the circuit, dropping a personal best of 1:01.97 in the 100m butterfly, and 2:13.78 in the 200m butterfly. She also grabbed a close second after Stirling’s Natasha Hofton in the 200m backstroke, an event she has grown considerably in (Austin, 2:11.92; Hofton, 2:11.17) and sixth in the 100m backstroke (1:02.06). Austin is another freshman who has incredible star power, continually dropping best times along with being incredibly rounded in the butterfly and breaststroke events, along with Lily West, a 200m butterflier (2:14.56) who we could soon see in diversifying her skill set.

Sophomore Anna Hopkin also continues her freestyle dominance as she dropped a best of 54.97 in her 100m freestyle, grabbing a bronze in short course, and took gold in the 50m freestyle in 24.94. Unlike some other conference athletes, Hopkin may not possess a diverse skill set, as she generally focuses only on sprint freestyle, but she provides serious firepower to Bath’s freestyle and medley relays which has greatly helped them push for bronzes behind Loughborough and Edinburgh.

It’s going to be a great season.


Photo Courtesy: Anne Bochmann / British Swimming