Roll of honour

Steve Wright rounds up some key sporting achievements across the 2015-16 academic year

Lacrosse is a significant part of the sporting DNA at St Catherine’s, Bramley – a fact well illustrated by the academic year just finished. At the 2016 Rathbones National Schools Lacrosse Championships, St Catherine’s took the prestigious High Performing Lacrosse Playing School award. That should come as no surprise, as the school regularly fields large numbers of teams at tournaments. Saturday fixtures often involve over 300 girls, including A-D teams. “We ensure that everyone, from the elite athlete to the ‘just enjoy it’ crowd, finds plenty of support and encouragement,” explains Director of Sport (and ex-England lacrosse player) Vic Alexander.

At the 2015 Rathbone’s U19 Lacrosse World Cup in Edinburgh, 13 St Catherine’s girls represented the three home countries. Next year’s Senior Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, meanwhile, should feature around six St Catherine’s pupils. Staff member Laura Merrifield is the current England women’s captain, while Games Captain Tilly Shires was awarded Most Valuable Player at this years’ Nationals Schools Lacrosse tournament.

Lacrosse is also high up the menu at St Mary’s, Calne. At April’s Lacrosse Home Internationals, Lower VI girls Iona Westwood and Jemima Brown made their England U19 B debuts in the Junior B Tournament, taking part (and both scoring) in convincing wins against Wales U18B and Scotland U18B. Congrats too to St Mary’s U15 Amelia Hatlapa, selected for all three U19 National tournaments in August.

Brentwood School has enjoyed another year of sporting excellence across an impressive range of disciplines. The school’s U15 footballers were runners-up in their sector of the Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA), and Brentwood currently fields five boys in the England Independent Schools Team, with seven pupils affiliated to professional football clubs.

In other sports, Brentwood’s U13 netballers were crowned National champions, while 11 of its cricketers are turning out for the local county cricket side, Essex, and nine girls represent the county in hockey. “We are incredibly fortunate to have excellent PE staff, complemented by huge support from the Common Room alongside a handful of peripatetic staff who provide an elite focus,” reflects Brentwood’s Director of Sport, Ian Wignall. “We firmly believe that our ability to encourage each and every pupil to participate leads to success at the top end.”

Fencing is another sport where Brentwood continue to dominate, winning the Public Schools’ Championships in 26 of the last 32 years. Three of the school’s water polo players are on the Team GB books while, still in the water, the school took the Mid-Essex swimming championships for the 11th year running.

Also excelling in the water was Lord Wandsworth College third former Cameron Gammage, who acquitted himself impressively in the GB Senior Men’s Diving Championships, the first stage of Olympic trials for diving. Performing his new backward 2.5 somersault, Cameron finished seventh in the qualifiers ahead of four international divers and went on to dive against Tom Daley in the finals, finishing eighth.

Clockwise from top left: Cameron Grammage (right) with Tom Daley; Solihull School rugby; Stamford rugby; Lacrosse at St Catherine’s

Further north and west, Colwyn Bay’s Rydal Penrhos School is dominating in two disciplines a little way out of the mainstream. Brothers Eddie and Kevin Farrell have been selected for the Welsh RS Feva National sailing squad – alongside Ewan Luke and Zac Blomeley, who impressed selectors by winning the RS Feva class at the recent Welsh Zones event in Bala. Fellow sailor Daisy Lee-Browne, meanwhile, will join up with the RYA Cymru-Wales Youth 29er squad after a number of eye-catching performances in recent months.

Director of Sport, Allen Boyd, said: “A huge congratulations goes to all five sailors on their Welsh squad selections, and I am confident that they have the talent to really contribute over the coming months. Our sailing programme is something we are very proud of, and it is fantastic to see all their hard work being recognised at a national level.” Rydal’s Senior Girls skiing team, meanwhile, finished a close second in the Welsh Championships – again, reward for the school’s considerable investment in the sport.

Elsewhere on the ski slopes, mention must be made of year nine pupil Daisi Daniels from Beech House School, who this year competed in both the Anglo Scottish and British Ski Academy Championships. Daisi took four golds for each race (Slalom D1, Slalom D2, Giant Slalom D1, Giant Slalom D2) and the overall title of Under 14 Anglo Scottish Champion. Following these successes, Daisi wrapped up a hat-trick of victories in the English Championships, held in Italy in February, where she took Overall Under 14 first place.

There have been some impressive milestones this year, too. Back in November, for example, Stamford School’s First XV produced a fantastic display to beat Denstone College XV 32-12 – and seal an extraordinary five years undefeated at home. Captain Henry Wills was proud of his peers: “It’s becoming a bit of a legacy and nobody wants to let themselves or the team down. We don’t want to be the team that lost the record – and that was obvious today with the work the boys put in.” Another rugby giant, Warwick School, also had a year to remember, reaching the national finals at various age levels and fielding five England internationals: Tom Dodd and Josh Grimes at U18 Counties, Nick David and Nick Rigby at U17 and Tom Fawcett at U16.

Indoors, Hornsby House School‘s gymnastics team were proud winners, for the second time in three years, of Aprils National U11 Mixed Team title at the British Schools Gymnastics Association Floor and Vault Finals. Pupils Nicolas Goad and Phoebe Hastings also took the individual honours for highest scoring boy and girl. That success followed a third successive win at the BSGA Milano Team Trio Finals the previous month.

It’s the sheer quantity and depth of participation – and at school representative level, at that – that impresses at Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle, which prides itself on fostering the pursuit of excellence in a sport-for-all environment. As we went to press, Merchiston had fielded 76 different teams in competitive fixtures across 16 sports during the year – a total of 489 fixtures, with a win ratio of 59%. More impressively still, 87% of all pupils have represented the school at some stage this year.

Among the many sports at which Merchiston excels, rugby, tennis and golf stand out. This year the school was represented in all of the Scottish national rugby teams (U16, U18, U20 sevens and full side). Merchiston also won the top league (Red Conference) of the Scottish Schools Rugby Conference, which pools results from all teams from Under 13 upwards.

Merchiston was also the first school to represent Scotland at the International Schools Tennis Finals, after winning the U18 Scottish Schools Tennis Championships in six of the past eight years. The school is now ranked number two in the UK in the LTA Tennis Schools Rankings. The school’s Golf Academy were also ISGA National Junior League Champions last year.

Congrats, too, to Solihull School, which saw four of its pupils selected for international rugby duty this year. Charlie Morgan and William Cutbill both play for England Counties U18s, William Talbot-Davies for Wales U18s and Tom Serle for Scotland U16s.

Solihull’s U12 rugby sevens team, meanwhile, sit proudly atop the UK rankings after finishing the season undefeated – including triumphs at all four of the school tournaments they entered. They’d make strong competitors for St Andrew’s Prep, Eastbourne, whose U12 rugby team made it four successive triumphs in the U12 Sussex County Rugby Cup. Their U13 compatriots joined them as Sussex champions this year, while recording an impressive 100% win ratio across their 15 fixtures.

Last but most definitely not least, congrats to Oundle duo Tristan Tusa and Harry Vestey, who both ran the London Marathon – raising, respectively, £6,300 for the PSP Association and £2,700 for the Outward Bound Trust. A marathon achievement to round off this marathon account of 2015-16’s hugely impressive sporting exploits.