Preparations are well underway for the 25th edition of the Stan Calvert Memorial Cup, where Team Newcastle will take on their counterparts from Northumbria in a battle for the city's sporting kudos.
The competition has been held annually since 1994, and after a run of six wins on the trot Newcastle relinquished the title in 2014, with Northumbria victorious every year since. A smattering of fixtures starting in late January will lead up to the final showdown on Sunday 25 February, with over a dozen sports in action across the city.
Several wrinkles in the scheduled are still to be ironed out in a process of sometimes-tense negotiations between the two universities. Confirmed fixtures so far include basketball, water polo and korfball. Fresh on the tails of the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, the Silksworth Ski Slope in Sunderland will host some Stan Calvert skiing.
Some fixtures, such as women's rugby, American football and the equestrian events will take place before the main Stan Calvert weekend. The Courier Sport, in partnership with NSR and NUTV, will provide extensive coverage of the competition, with plans underfoot to livestream numerous events. Most of the events will also be free to watch for students, with a majority of the venues located in the city centre.
A 5k fun run on the Town Moor on Saturday 24 February won't count towards the overall score but gives all students at each university the chance to take part
For clubs such as swimming, Stan Calvert presents a unique opportunity to race head-to-head with another university team. Adam Sayedi, swimming president at Newcastle, feels the result this year will come down to performance in the relays, where Newcastle can put forward a strong team and hope to end the aquatic dominance shown by Northumbria in recent years.
Whatever the result, however, Sayedi is confident the swimming will be an interesting watch for spectators. “It's quite cold outside,” he pointed out, “and this is inside so it's quite warm. There's going to be quite a few topless bodies there, so if people want to go for that then that's absolutely fine.
“And the atmosphere gets really interesting, especially with the relays. It's not a long drawn-out affair, it's two minutes of pure action, pure excitement.”
Much of the organisation of the competition has fallen to the universities' student sport officers, Clara Pettitt of Newcastle's Athletic Union and Kerry-Anne Hastings, Student Sport President at Northumbria. Pettitt said "The process started last Summer and hopefully the hard work will have paid off and it'll culminate in a fantastic tournament."
The Stan Calvert rules agreed by both universities dictate that only teams entered into BUCS can take part in the competition, but this year a 5k fun run will be held on Saturday 24 February. Although the run won't count towards the overall score it gives all students at each university the chance to take part. Registration for the run, which will take place at 11am on the Town Moor, is open now on the NUSU website.
The fun run is the brainchild of Pettitt, who explained: "It's a great opportunity for anyone who wouldn't usually be involved in Stan Calvert to be able to represent Team Newcastle during the weekend. Hopefully it'll get everyone in the mood for Stan Calvert Sunday when most of the fixtures take place."
On the more competitive side, Team Newcastle clubs have started training for the big day.
"All the support, the t-shirts, everyone talking about it on campus, it really means a lot more than just a competition. It's about pride in the Uni"
Kitty Single, part of the victorious women's lacrosse team from last year's competition, explained how the event was exciting for club members. “I think the rivalry is there even if you're a fresher, you know that it's a big game, it's something that has a lot of buildup,” she said.
While the women's lacrosse team are feeling confident ahead of their showdown, tennis player Corey Chan is more cautious about his team's prospects. “I feel Northumbria will be strong again this year, and it will be especially challenging because we've got quite a new team.
“A lot of our players left last year, so the majority of our first team this year is made up of freshers, although they're very good players, and experienced as well.”
Chan acknowledged that Stan Calvert had a different atmosphere to normal BUCS fixtures, explaining: “there's a bit more hanging on it than just the BUCS points. You've got a lot more support on the sidelines and you feel there's a bit more on your shoulders.”
Sayedi added: “All the support, the t-shirts, everyone talking about it on campus, it really means a lot more than just a competition. It's about pride in the Uni, isn't it.”
2018 marks a quarter of a century since the death of Stan Calvert, who joined Newcastle University as a lecturer in Physical Education in 1958 and became the University's first Director of Sport in 1981. Since the first competition in October 1994 Newcastle have won 13 times and Northumbria nine times, with the 1999 and 2003 contests ending in dissatisfying draws.
Keep up to date with 2018's competition on the Courier Sport website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A full preview of the big weekend will be available in the print issue of the Courier on 19 February.