The south-west stormed to victory at the AoC Sport National Championships last weekend, unseating the previous winner of four years.
The region took the Wilkinson Sword trophy from the south-east at the 42nd national championships, held in Nottingham.
After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, staff and visitors came to celebrate the opening of the championship at an open-air cinema, where they heard from English professional rugby union player Joe Marchant, who offered his congratulations to all the students.
Throughout the championships more than 1,500 students from 91 colleges took part in 12 different sports at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and Willow Sports Centre, Derby.
“It goes without saying that the past two years have been extremely difficult for everyone and especially young people,” said AoC Sport director of sport and student experience Dean Hardman.
“We were therefore delighted to see the return of the AoC Sport National Championships for the first time since 2019 and the much-needed opportunity for our talented athletes from across the country to compete against each other at this fantastic event.”
After an “intense competition”, the south-west region were crowned Wilkinson Sword winners, with a total of 140 points.
This is the first time the region has won the title since 2016. The previous champions of four years were the southeast, who this year came in third place, losing out to Yorkshire and Humber for the runner-up spot.
During the event, over 70 student volunteers and match officials ensured that the competitions ran smoothly, while sports therapy students from Moulton College provided “pop up clinics” as well as pitch-side management and injury assessment and advice.
Students from Exeter College won the netball and women’s rugby for the southwest. Chris Wall, sport academy manager at Exeter College, told FE Week about the emotional highs that came with the win.
“There were tears from the coaches. It’s great to see the joy in the faces of the students.
“Having two years of not having much sport at all, not having national champs, to be able to have sport now pretty much back to normal, you appreciate what you didn’t have.”
Wall spoke of the pride he felt after his team achieved gold.
“They all showed great determination, great durability – the nature of the tournament is you play over two days,” he said.
“You can have all sorts of knocks, you’re going to get some bruises, particularly in rugby. And those people who come out and get gold are the people who are able to cope best and be able to perform in every game to a good standard.”
However, he noted that some students missed out because of Covid – something he called a “huge shame… I guess we are appreciating a little bit more what we do have in competitive sport through AoC and that platform,” he added.
The championships were sponsored by the RAF, who were present throughout the weekend, and kit suppliers Serious Sport and UCFB.