Strathclyde University are heading into this year’s Taxis Cup with high hopes as they look to end their six year drought at the inter-city event. Having reached a record high 24th in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) standings and with a number of teams winning titles throughout the year they have every of reason to be confident that this year can finally be theirs.
“Sport has been really good this year, with our BUCS ranking eight places up on last year.” Calvin Hepburn, the Strathclyde Union Sports President, acknowledged. “In a sporting context, we are doing really well by getting more people out competing and our performance has gone up and up. We’ve had some really impressive stuff this year, including rugby and tennis both in the premier league.” Meanwhile the Men’s Hockey and Volleyball Clubs, and Women’s Hockey stormed to title success leaving Hepburn hopeful that this will continue come the main event.
It is true that Strathclyde have shown signs of ever increasing improvement over the last few years as they aim to finally usurp their Glaswegian rivals, with Hepburn in no doubt as to what has driven the improvement. “There is a growing feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’, under one Strathclyde sport.” He remarked. His thoughts were mirrored by Maddy Watson, of the Strathclyde University Equestrian Club, who admitted that she “loves competing in anything to do with the Sports Union.”
With their own dedicated hashtag, #WeBleedMaroon, and a real sense of “community”, the whole university has come together as one united team. “Everyone has bought into the idea and there’s a feelgood factor around the place.” Hepburn proudly explained. “Everyone is out for one another and rooting for one another and we’ve had some big attendances at a number of events, including the rugby.”
On the day, Strathclyde will look to reduce a nine-point gap between themselves and Glasgow, and Hepburn is confident that tennis and rugby will be two bankers for them. Although he admitted that the tennis club has been far more successful since he stopped competing. “All my experience has been in tennis. Funnily enough in my first year, I played it (the Taxis Cup) and we didn’t win, but ever since then I’ve not played it and we’ve won!”
“So I am fairly confident, certainly in tennis, that we’ve got a really strong chance. Our rugby team won the Varsity Game at the start of the year 20-0, so I would be surprised if they didn’t win.”
Having finished second in last year’s Equestrian event, Watson acknowledged that it will be very open this year. “Glasgow are a really strong team but so are our A’s. As hosts, I think home advantage could be key.” Equestrian won’t be the only event that Watson represents the maroon of Strathclyde, as she has been drafted into the Track event at the last minute. Running in the 400x400m relay, Watson’s commitment to go the extra mile demonstrates the team spirit built up at Strathclyde.
However, this is not to say that Strathclyde are without their own star players and Hepburn was quick to talk up badminton star Alex Dunn. Already cited by Glasgow’s Badminton Club Captain, Richard Bradley, as Glasgow’s biggest threat, Dunn heads into the Taxis Cup on the back of capturing bronze at the 2015 European Junior Badminton Championships. As badminton is this year’s tournament finale, Hepburn excitedly remarked, “Alex is one of our best young prospects and it’s going to be a great finale, especially if we have Alex and Matt (Carder, of Glasgow).” With most of the events taking place at Scotstoun this year, Hepburn is also excited at the prospect of a full house taking in the finale. “I think the atmosphere will be really, really good come the finale. From what I’ve heard from people, with Scotstoun being the host venue, there’s already going to be eight, nine sports there, so naturally people will be more inclined to come along and watch.”
Will the supporters be coming to watch a Strathclyde victory? Hepburn and Watson were optimistic. “I think the fact that we are at such a high place in the ranking system and all of our clubs seem to be doing well in their leagues gives us a great chance.” Hepburn said. Although they lost by nine points last year, the gap has been as little as one point in 2011 and 2012, but he was quick to put the pressure on Glasgow. “There’s no pressure on us anymore. Whereas Ruari (Thomson, GUSA President) admitted that he’s got everything to lose and nothing to gain. We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. Hopefully because we’ve got a bit less pressure on us this year, it means the title will be coming back to Strathclyde for the first time in a long time.”