Ruairidh Campbell discusses with the Glasgow University Athletics Club their ambitions for the year ahead.
Meeting on a Saturday afternoon, following a club gym session, which was preceded by a hill running session earlier that day, members of Glasgow University Athletics Club’s (GUAC) committee were looking surprisingly upbeat.
“I genuinely think this season could be one of our best as a club,” said Men’s Captain Ross Fraser.
“Not only do we have some star athletes emerging, but our base membership and social side continue to improve year on year,” adds Club Secretary Patrick Bowman.
Indeed the two old faces of the club have every right to feel positive. In their early years at the University, their athletics club barely scraped the requirements for GUSA affiliation, while financial issues forced the then committee to cut ties with Scottish Athletics in an effort to save money. Things only really began to turn around in the 2013-14 season, when the then fairly unknown Laura Muir competed at her first IAAF World Championships, sparking increased interest in the club.
Since then, membership has grown rapidly and the club has got back to it’s winning ways; holding both the Scottish Universities Indoor and Outdoor titles for the last seven years. Individual athletes like Julie Dobbin and Jill Cherry, meanwhile, have impressed in the hugely competitive British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships.
This year’s intake has seen a real boost for the competitive athletes with Cypriot triple jump champion Andrea Zouvani standing out for Women’s Captain Ana Bacallado - “the distances she is jumping are incredible, we haven’t had many female jumpers recently so I can’t wait to see her compete”.
1500m runner Bowman, meanwhile, is excited to see first year Anthony Addison race over his preferred distance. His personal best of 3.58.66 would have guaranteed gold at the Scottish Universities last year and at just 18 years old, he has time to improve. However, Ross Fraser summed it up well saying: “Honestly it’s far too hard to pick a stand out first year [student], we have so many this year who are already in a position to challenge for Medals.”
The committee is viewing the BUCS Indoors in February with added emphasis this year. With the Outdoors meet usually clashing with May exams, the Sheffield-based competition is the best chance most of the club’s athletes will get to compete against some of the country’s elite competitors. Although the likes of Scottish 200m and 400m Champion Krishawn Aiken will be hoping to challenge for a medal, for most athletes it is about the experience. “For our younger athletes in particular, this may one of their first major competitions,” Fraser explains.
“Even spending a weekend watching top class athletics will teach them a lot about racing at this level. They may not be ready that year to really compete but it sets them up well for when they inevitably return in the future.”
Success on the track has also allowed the committee to continue developing the club behind the scenes. The recently created committee position of Publicity Convenor has seen a remarkable improvement in the team’s social media recognition, helping boost the club’s outreach. The club are also now in the final stages of re-affliating with Scottish Athletics, allowing for members to compete under the club name at external competitions, while also providing an opportunity to begin putting some members through coaching courses. However, despite the great prospect of success, other events come to mind when asked what they are most looking forward to about the club this year.
“Warm weather training,” Captains Fraser and Bacallado say in unison. “We spend a week at the end of the second semester in somewhere like Portugal and get the opportunity to train in a completely different environment. It’s tough work but really good for the athletes.”
“At the same time it’s a great team bonding experience; you get a week away with some really good friends and although we train hard, there’s plenty of time to relax and socialise as well.”
Bowman, meanwhile, is looking forward to the training weekend in Inverness at the end of the month: “Unlike Portugal, training is not the biggest priority for this weekend, it’s more about really getting to know the new club members and letting them experience a quality weekend up in the Highlands.”
As all are happy to admit, there is pressure to succeed, given the club’s illustrious recent history. Nonetheless, the 2017/18 season has the potential to be one of GUAC’s most exciting, as they prepare to compete with the best.