For many, COVID-19 has cleared the social calendar of end of season activity, graduations, grad balls, even concerts and holidays we may have been looking forward to. However, the Sports Union could not let a pandemic get in the way of celebrating the inspirational achievements of our athletes and the wonderful sense of belonging created by our volunteers, and so the first ever Sports Union Blues and Volunteers Ceremony was born, and we were live!
What was lost from face-to-face interaction was made up for in our largest ever attendance, with students and staff, past and present, coming together to look back on what made the 2019/20 academic year for sport at Heriot Watt. We heard words of encouragement from friends of the Sports Union and most importantly, celebrated our students.
The 2019/20 Executive Committee all contributed to our “SU – A Year in Review” video. We highlighted some of the great successes of our clubs, on and off the ‘field’, as well as national and international success amongst our Sport Scholars. We championed the individuals who opened up throughout mental health week to share their stories of overcoming challenges with the help of the Sports Union community.
Professor John Sawkins, Deputy Principal (Learning & Teaching), who has been a great support of the Sports Union, spoke of the parallels between sport and education, and how he has been able to engage with sport on campus through the Oriam Park Run.
Our first award of the evening was the Duncan Murray Award, for Top Competitor in the Snowsports Club. Duncan Murray was a hugely well-known and loved character in the Snowsports Club but also in the wider Sports Union and is an extremely sad loss to our community. Since the tragic accident that took his life in 2009, Duncan’s family have been extremely supportive of the Sports Union and the Snowsports Club, funding members of the club to compete for the university. This year’s award goes to Club Captain, Calum Shepherd.
We then moved on to awarding seven Outstanding Sporting Achievements (OSAs). OSAs are awarded to a student who has not represented the University, and is therefore not eligible for a Blue, but has achieved a consistent and exceptional performance throughout the season. The award winners were:
The Steve Chapman Trophy for Top OSA, named after our former principal and instrumental figure in Heriot-Watt’s bid to build Oriam, was awarded to Lisa Aitken. Lisa has had a hugely successful year as Scotland No.1, achieving a career high world ranking of 35 and captaining Scotland to a top 4 finish in Europe for the first time in 15 year. She also broke the Guinness World Record for the “Longest Squash Rally” in July 2019, reaching 3,606 strokes in one hour 16 minutes which surpassed the previous record by 198 shots.
This year we had eleven Half Blue winners, awarded to students who have achieved a consistent and outstanding performance at a standard below that of a full Blue, as well as fourteen Full Blues awarded to students who have achieved a consistent and exceptional performance throughout the season normally culminating in SSS/BUCS representation, where applicable. Amongst these was Ben Rooney, who becomes only the third recipient of a Blue for Mountaineering this century! We were lucky enough to have been tell us all about how he achieved it on his trip to South America.
The Neil Campbell Trophy for Top Blue, donated in memory of Professor Neil Campbell, a former member of the University’s Physical Recreation Committee, was awarded to David Cumberlidge. David, winning his 4th Blue in 5 years at Heriot-Watt. In the Summer of 2019, David travelled to the World University Games in Naples, where he won Gold, becoming only the 4th British male in history to swim the 50m freestyle in under 22 seconds, as well as achieving two gold medals at BUCS in the 50m & 100m freestyle.
Michael Webster, former Sports Union President and double Blue winner, made his ‘return’ to the Watt, to speak about life after University, the transferable skills he acquired from his time volunteering with the Sports Union, his upcoming career change, and how he recently took up marathon running.
The backbone of the Sports Union are the volunteers from across all 30+ clubs, who give up over 650 hours a week throughout each semester to facilitate engaging and active communities for a range of abilities, on and off campus. We recognise these contributions through our Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum Awards, all of which are recognised on the University Enhanced Transcript upon graduation.
The Len Burnett Trophy, in memory of a well-respected, former Sports Centre Assistant is awarded to the Platinum Award winner that has shown the most significant contribution to their club and/or the Sports Union during their time at university. The winner of the Len Burnett Trophy for 2019/20 is Lana Neish. Lana has been nothing short of exceptional in her role as Marketing & Communications Executive, alongside being Vice-President of the Cheerleading Club. She is a constant smiling face on campus, a smile which has welcomed countless students to Heriot-Watt and the Sports Union at Welcome Talks, Open Days as well as Freshers and Refreshers events.
We closed the afternoon with some words from the Principal of the University, Professor Richard Williams, who thanked the contributions of the students, and spoke of the importance of Sport as we enter into a world after COVID.
Many thanks to everyone who attended and congratulations to all of this year’s award winners.