The University's best teams travel up to Sheffield next week to take part in the prestigious BUCS Championships. Here, we profile the teams that are travelling northwards in search of titles and silverware. Redbrick Sport will launch a microsite where all the news, reports and interviews of that weekend will be available.
BUCS for Beginners
The BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Championships are for the crème de la crème of university sport. The organisation is responsible for organising 50 different university sports and every team (from hockey to waterpolo; football to archery) participate in their yearly championship. It usually takes the form of a knockout competition, and only the best sporting universities progress to the latter stages. The season starts in October and finishes in July, although the most important week for most teams takes place in March. Interestingly, the athletics finals this year are being used as an Olympics test event, so a few privileged Birmingham athletes will be competing in the Olympic stadium. The University tends to do exceptionally well in BUCS, rarely finishing outside the top three.
The Story Last Year...
Gold: Men's Squash / Women's Hockey / Men's Fencing / Swimming (2nd team) / Judo (Caroline Cross) / Athletics (Julian Adeniran) / Athletics (Alison Leonard)
Silver: Swimming (1st team) /Judo (Diego Scardone)
The girls are chasing an unprecedented third Championship, having overcome a series of tough opponents in the cup including Gloucestershire, Oxford and Bath. They now face a strong Durham side, who wrapped up the league two weeks ago. Brum, however, are second in the league and did beat an (albeit weakened) Durham side last week. The game is undoubtedly the biggest of the season for the team. If they were an animal? Lion: Fierce, with a strong character.
Both the men's and women's teams sit in third place in the Premier North division (out of five). They've reached the BUCS semi-finals and face stiff competition. For both sexes, the remaining three teams are Bath, Leeds Met and Loughborough The women, having beaten Cardiff 8-0 in the quarters, now play a fierce Leeds Met. The men face Loughborough, one of the best teams on the university circuit. If they were an animal? Swallow: elegant, swift yet rapid.
The karate and judo club are taking down teams to compete in the individual and team events. Karate has both sparring and kata events, and aims to do well. They won bronze last year in the men's senior kumite (sparring) and also in the women's intermediate kata; success that is helped by visits from esteemed karate master Hiroshi Shirai. If they were an animal? Tiger: explosive, strong yet graceful.
The climbers head to Sheffield with a team of six. They include Alex Dexter ('beautiful body but ugly footwork'), Annie Byass Clarke ('broad, muscular shoulders') and Steffen Cruz ('large in both body and mind'). Those interested should check out the club's great website: www.ubmc.co.uk If they were an animal? Squirrel: good scramblers but with effortless poise.
Gary Humpage, the swimming coach, has overseen a revolution in Birmingham swimming. They are now one of the best teams in the country. Last year they finished second in the BUCS Championships. In the Water Polo, both the women's and men's teams are in the semi-final and will play each of the three teams again in their respective groups. If they were an animal? Salmon: superb swimmers but brutal battlers
Unlike other sports, which may only play one game in Sheffield, the men's volleyball team still have a quater-final match to win. They've been waiting a while too, having played their last cup game back in November where they beat York 3-1. There is plenty of strong teams left in the competition, including Leeds Met, Loughborough, Edinburgh, and a Warwick side unbeaten in Birmingham's league. If they were an animal? Kangaroo: must jump well and have a good punch.
One of Birmingham's strongest teams, the women's lacrosse play Cambridge in the BUCS Championship final. Last week they effectively conceded the league title to Durham, although not after a superb fight. They smashed Exeter 17-1 in the recent semi-final, and they've also had comprehensive cup victories against both Oxford and Cardiff. Cambridge are top of their Premier South division. If they were an animal? Ostrich: quick, powerful and will lash out.
The fencers are competing as individuals this year; both the men's and women's team narrowly lost to Cambridge and Bristol respectively in the last 16 stage. However, the men's team won their league last week with a win against Leicester, having won all nine of their games. The women are a comfortable third in their league, but their division (the Premier North) is one higher than the men's. If they were an animal? Cobra: agile and darting.