It has been another year of phenomenal success for athletes at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, with hauls of medals on the world stage, record-breaking runs in national cup tournaments and an impressive overall ranking in UK student sport competitions.
In the 2022/23 season, University of Stirling swimmers scooped 16 medals at the Commonwealth Games; our footballers battled it out with Premiership stars in the Scottish Cup; and cricketer Brandon McMullen stole the headlines with top performances for Scotland in Cricket World Cup Qualifying.
Stirling finished in overall 13th position in British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) – thanks to winning 15 league titles across all sports, with particularly strong showings in its high-performance sports swimming, football, golf, and tennis, as well as high points totals in futsal, basketball, rugby, and hockey too. Notably, across all sports, Stirling won the third highest number of medals – 33 gold, 35 silver, and 18 bronze.
The University’s Lorna McClymont and George Cannon were crowned the best student golfers in the UK – winning their respective Order of Merit titles, while the men’s tennis players won the UK’s premium student cup competition.
Former sports scholars also continued to fly the University of Stirling flag on the international stage, with 2022 graduate Maia Lumsden making the quarter finals of the Ladies’ Doubles at Wimbledon, where ex-Stirling students Gordon Reid and Jonny O’Mara were also in action, and golfers Louise Duncan and Graeme Robertson competing in the 2022 women’s and 2023 men’s Open, respectively.
The exceptional performances of Stirling athletes over the past year further underline the University’s long-standing designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence – an accolade it has held since 2008. It comes just months after the University was ranked first in the UK and top five in the world for its sports facilities in the International Student Barometer 2022.
Cathy Gallagher, Executive Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “The 2022/23 sporting season has been an incredible success for the University and its athletes – delivering some truly memorable and exhilarating moments on the sporting stage, here in Scotland, across the UK and internationally.
“We’re incredibly proud of everything that our high-performance athletes, our students, our staff members and our local community continue to achieve – and look forward to continuing to support their sports, health, and wellbeing journeys here at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
“We are very excited about what the next 12 months will bring.”
Murray Bushell, Sports Union President at Stirling Students’ Union, said: “What a year of sport for Stirling in 2022/23! The Sports Union is incredibly proud of all our members’ incredible success.
“To have 15 league winners and more than 80 individual medals is a fantastic accomplishment – and it is especially rewarding to see some of our Tier 2 teams make up a portion of this success.
“We now look ahead to 2023/24 and hope it brings even more success for all the Sports Union clubs.”
Stirling swimmers returned from last summer’s Commonwealth Games with a record medal haul – two gold, one silver, and 13 bronze. At the event in Birmingham, Stirling’s Duncan Scott won six medals (two gold, four bronze) to become Scotland’s most decorated athlete of all time – with 13 medals from three Games. Other medallists included Ross Murdoch (three bronze), Stephen Milne (two bronze), Cameron Kurle (silver), Craig McNally, Mark Szaranek, Toni Shaw, and Martyn Walton (all one bronze each).
Scott also won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan, with stablemate Lucy Hope’s bronze taking the Stirling medal tally at that event to four.
At the inaugural Under-23 European Championships, Keanna MacInnes won two golds and a silver, with Evie Davis also winning two silvers, and Lucy Grieve one. Stirling swimmers won the BUCS Scottish Tier 1 title; there were 22 medals for our swimmers at the British Summer Championships; the University was named top club at the Scottish Short Course Championships; and Hope won silver at the European Aquatic Championships.
Football legends Sir Alex Ferguson, Lilian Thuram and Craig Brown were among a host of celebrities to wish the University men’s first team well as they made history against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup fourth round. After a dramatic extra-time winner against Albion Rovers in the third round, the students travelled to Tannadice Park in Dundee – supported by more than 1,000 travelling fans – to take on their Premiership opponents; the first time a university team has made the last 32 of the national cup competition in more than 50 years. While the students lost the match 3-0, they received plaudits for their performance on the day, which will live long in the memory.
The same side secured an impressive fourth-place finish in the highly-competitive Lowland League, were crowned champions of the BUCS Premier North Division for the third consecutive season, and won the Queen’s Park Shield and East of Scotland Qualifying Cup. At the Scottish Student Sport Awards, the side won Team of the Year and Head Coach Chris Geddes won Coach of the Year.
In a further endorsement of the programme, graduating players were snapped up by Scottish Professional Football league clubs, with club captain James Berry signing for Stenhousemuir and midfielder Jason Jarvis joining Bonnyrigg Rose.
Meanwhile, the men’s fourth team won BUCS Scottish Tier 5 and the Scottish Conference Trophy.
Lorna McClymont and George Cannon were crowned the best student golfers in the UK, finishing the BUCS Tour in top spot and winning their respective Order of Merit titles after exhibiting excellent performances across the 10-event tour.
McClymont won the R&A Student Tour Series Order of Merit, the Irish Women’s Amateur Open and Welsh Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship titles too, and competed in the 2023 Arnold Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition between the United States and the Rest of the World. She was also selected to compete for Great Britain and Ireland against Europe in the prestigious Vagliano Trophy, organised by The R&A and the European Golf Association.
Meanwhile, Stirling’s first, second and fourth mixed golf teams won their respective titles (Premier North, Scottish Tier 1, Scottish Tier 2), and the University triumphed over Yale in an exhibition match at Gleneagles.
In March, the University’s men’s tennis team won the BUCS UK National Championships – the premium competition in UK student sport – for the first time in nearly a decade. Driven by show-stopping performances from Rob Cowley, Liam Hignett and James MacKinlay, Stirling beat Bath in the final at Nottingham Tennis Centre, in what was an emotional finale to the season.
The men’s third team and the women’s second team were crowned champions of their respective Scottish Tier 1 leagues. The wins mean that, for the upcoming season, Stirling tennis will have a men’s and women’s team in both the Premier National and Premier North leagues.
Meanwhile, the men’s tennis fifth team won their respective Scottish Conference Cup.
Stirling student Brandon McMullen put in outstanding performances on the international stage for Scotland in the 2023 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers – securing himself a place in the International Cricket Council’s team of the tournament. McMullen made his first century in one-day internationals with a 136 against Oman, and was named player of the match, before making a 106 against the Netherlands – who eventually defeated Scotland despite their best efforts.
Other sporting successes
Curler James Craik led Team Great Britain to gold at the FISU Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, with a 5-1 win over Team USA in the final, while Nicole Ritchie won the BUCS Dryslope Championships for the fourth year in a row, and fellow skier Scott Meenagh won Great Britain’s first ever medal at a Para-Nordic World Championships – taking silver in the 12.5km race.
Sarah Tait was selected for Great Britain Under 23s at the European Athletics Championships, finishing sixth in the 3,000m steeplechase; the men’s hockey first team won Scottish Tier 2, achieving promotion into the top league for the first time in their history; the mixed baseball team won Scottish Tier 1 for the third time in a row; the men’s second futsal team won the Scottish Conference Cup; and the women’s rugby team won Scottish Tier 2 and the Scottish Conference Cup.
The women’s water polo team won Scottish Tier 1 but missed out on promotion to the Premier League; the polo team won Scottish Tier 1; the men’s basketball first team became champions of Scottish Tier 4 and won the Scottish Conference Cup; and the netball second team of Scottish Tier 6.
Other highlights included three gold medals at the Athletics British Outdoor Championships, a gold at the British Powerlifting Championships and a powerlifting bronze at the World University Games, and a gold at the British Judo Championships.
Meanwhile, the cheerleading team were British university champions in two different disciplines – in pom and lyrical – and the pom team were also awarded Grand Champions for the highest-scoring routine from all disciplines on the day. They were Scottish university champions in four disciplines: pom, lyrical, level two all-girl, level one co-ed.
As well as preparing our student athletes to compete at the best possible level, the University’s sports facilities continue to provide students, staff and the local community with the perfect environment to achieve their health, fitness and wellbeing goals. Over the past year, the sports facilities have recorded record footfall, with more than 6,500 students engaged in activities and 1,000 people participating in community programmes.