BUCS Recap: Loughborough, Edinburgh, Stirling Shine At Collegiate Championships

Photo Courtesy: Sophia Chiang

By Sophia Chiang, Swimming World College Intern

The United Kingdom’s fastest collegiate swimmers descended upon Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield, England, November 13-15th for the most anticipated bi-annual national collegiate meet, the British University and Colleges Series (BUCS) championship. With upwards of 2,000 athletes and the attendance of multiple Olympians and World University Games athletes, competition was fierce. The Universities of Loughborough, Edinburgh, and Stirling brought strong teams of athletes to the meet and consistently dominated the podium throughout the weekend.

Twenty-two year old Aimee Willmott of East London brought home the first win of the weekend in the 800m freestyle, cruising to an easy finish ahead of freshman Alice Dearing of Loughborough in 8:29.62. Willmott, seasoned on the international swimming circuit, has competed for Great Britain in the FINA World Championships, the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympic Games. Certainly looking to punch her ticket to Rio this April, she put up a dominant weekend of performances, the 800m freestyle being the first of many.

On the men’s side, Loughborough University proved their dominance early on and swept the top three places in the 1500m freestyle, showcasing the depth and strength of their freshmen class. Toby Robinson (19) took gold in 14:45.75, setting himself up as one of the top contenders for Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic team. Teammates Tim Shuttleworth (18) and Caleb Hughes (19) were close behind, coming in at 14:52.76 and 15:02.56, respectively.

Sophie Smith of Loughborough led the Loughborough women’s charge of the weekend in the 200m freestyle, finishing strong in 1:56.63. Smith was followed closely by Olympic veterans Anne Bochmann (Bath), Aimee Willmott (East London), and Rebecca Turner (Sheffield Hallam). At twenty-one, Smith will be looking to qualify for her first Olympic Games this April. On the men’s side, freshman Scot Duncan Scott (Stirling) grabbed gold in 1:44.98, sweeping the event three seconds ahead of Loughborough’s Tim Shuttleworth (1:47.96) and Caleb Hughes (1:48.06).

The 50m backstroke had been predicted to be a toss-up, and it did not disappoint. Freshman Charlotte McKenzie of Loughborough out touched Charlotte Bryan (Swansea) by two-tenths of a second in 27.94 to 28.10, respectively. While the women’s side was dominated by fresh talent, the men’s side were dominated by seasoned BUCS veterans Craig McNally (Heriot-Watt) and Joe Elwood (Loughborough), both seniors, in 24.40 and 24.92, respectively. Freshman athletes were the highlight of the weekend, where freshman Beth Aitchison (Loughborough) dominated the 50m breaststroke (30.82). The men’s 50m breaststroke was swept by Stirling’s Craig Benson (26.84). A 2012 Olympic veteran and a Commonwealth Games finalist, Benson will be looking to qualify for Rio this April as well.

Loughborough and Edinburgh’s butterfly programs proved their dominance in the women’s 100m butterfly, where fan favorite Rachael Kelly (58.08) of Loughborough cruised to finish a full second ahead of silver medalist Raquel Matos (59.19) of Edinburgh. Loughborough has traditionally been a butterfly powerhouse– a quick look at any of the butterfly event seeds will show an abundance of Loughborough athletes– but Edinburgh’s up and coming program has begun to produce some serious results for the women. Anthony James of Plymouth won the 100m butterfly easily (51.12), coming in a full second ahead of Cameron Brodie of Stirling (52.74).

The 200m backstrokes were, however, dominated by experience. Veteran Natasha Hofton of Stirling touched in 2:11.74 for the women, and Craig McNally of Heriot-Watt grabbed gold in 1:56.23 for the men. Following behind, the 50m women’s freestyle was grabbed by fan favorites Anna Hopkin (Bath) in 24.94 and the men’s by Benjamin Proud (Plymouth Mark & John) in 21.40.

There were few surprises in the 200m breaststrokes. Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough) touched first in 2:24.72 and Olivia White (Edinburgh) came in a close second in 2:25.62. Craig Benson (Stirling), out for a win, grabbed first in the men’s 200m breaststroke in 2:06.12, two seconds ahead of Laurent Carnol of Loughborough (2:08.67).

But most exciting for Saturday evening were the 200m freestyle relays, where Bath, Edinburgh, Loughborough, and Stirling dominated the relays. For the women, Edinburgh’s A-team of Lucy Hope, Emily Jones, Kathryn Johnson, and Raquel Matos (1:42.37) grabbed gold for the first time, taking the title away from Loughborough. On the men’s side, Loughborough continued their dominance with the A-relay consisting of Andrew Weatheritt, Kane Haggett, Leo Jaggs, and David Masters (1:28.37) narrowly out touching Stirling’s B-relay (1:28.84).

Sunday evening opened to a fast start with freshman Emma Day of Loughborough dropping under 2:10 in the 200m butterfly with a 2:09.40, pulling ahead of Aimee Willmott of East London (2:10.79). Day, new on the collegiate circuit, was one of six athletes selected to compete for Team GB at the Japan Open this past summer in Tokyo, where she was placed on a 2020 Olympic fast track by the UK Swimming Committee. As of now, Day is certainly on track to becoming a world class athlete, and BUCS will certainly be all the more exciting with her in the field. Stirling’s Cameron Brodie grabbed the men’s 200m butterfly win in 1:55.49, dominating the heat by over two seconds. But the real BUCS highlight came in the women’s 100m freestyle, where Sophie Smith (Loughborough) and Lucy Hope (Edinburgh) touched first at the same time of 54.62, a time that knocked Anna Hopkin of Bath’s 54.97 to third. Smith and Hope are both fantastic athletes, and both look like strong options for 2016.


Photo Courtesy: Josh Dobson

The men were similarly exciting. Freshman Duncan Scott (Stirling) made his debut win in the men’s 100m freestyle in 47.78, narrowly out touching Benjamin Proud (Plymouth Mark & John) in 48.34. But the 100m breaststrokes weren’t surprises on either side. Favorites Kathryn Johnstone (1:06.54) brought the win home for the women while Craig Benson (Stirling) proved his breaststroke domination grabbing the win in 58.26 for the men. Benson has now brought home golds in the 50m, 100m, and 200m breaststrokes, and has certainly been a powerhouse athlete of the meet alongside Sophie Smith of Loughborough. Both will be athletes to watch out for this April, and may very well qualify for Rio.

Smith moved on to win the women’s 200m IM, taking gold by two seconds in 2:10.65. Also proving his versatility was Cameron Brodie (Stirling), grabbing gold in the men’s 200m IM in 1:55.49. Not to be forgotten, Rachael Kelly of Loughborough followed suit with a win in the 50m butterfly (26.67), narrowly beating Raquel Matos of Edinburgh (26.81). Benjamin Proud (Plymouth Mark & John) moved to his third podium of the weekend in the men’s 50m butterfly, claiming gold in 23.17, sweeping the event by more than a full second, a difficult accomplishment in any 50 event.

Charlotte McKenzie (Loughborough) cruised to a strong finish in the 100m backstroke in 1:00.30, knocking out Lucy Hope’s (Edinburgh) 1:01.10. For the men, favorite Craig McNally (Heriot-Watt) grabbed gold in 53.62 ahead of Joe Elwood (Loughborough) in 53.86.


Photo Courtesy: Josh Dobson

But what’s really striking is, despite Loughborough’s powerful freshmen class which has consistently dominated the weekend’s events, Edinburgh’s more seasoned relay teams brought home the golds on the women’s side. In the women’s 200m medley relay, Edinburgh’s A-relay (1:50.81) out touched Loughborough by 0.02 seconds in what may perhaps be the most disappointing finish for Loughborough of the meet. Although Loughborough’s Sophie Smith was more than a half second faster than Edinburgh’s Emily Jones in the final 50m split of 24.84, it wasn’t enough to bring home the finish necessary to dominate.

But on the men’s side, there was no such problem. Loughborough was out for the win. What followed was another close race that came down to a 0.3 second difference. Loughborough’s A-relay line-up, looking very similar to their 200m freestyle relay line-up, was a force to be matched as it came down to the final wire. Likewise, Edinburgh’s Jack Thorpe attempted to bring Edinburgh back in a blazing 21.41 50m freestyle split, but missed out slightly on the touch next to Loughborough’s Kane Haggett (22.07).

Loughborough was able to retain their BUCS championship crown, although Edinburgh has certainly come closer and closer to unseating them. Perhaps Edinburgh will unseat them in the long course BUCS championships this coming February. Also of note are Stirling and Bath, two universities which have managed to recruit and grab former Olympians, Commonwealth Champions, and Junior European Championship stars. Both teams now have massive potential for growth, and this year’s championship has certainly given great room for thought on predictions for both February’s long course championships and 2016’s short course championships.

For all BUCS 2015 Short Course Championship results, please visit the official website here.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x