Team Newcastle Sports Personality of the Year 2017: top 10

Our panel of judges spent time considering our shortlist of Newcastle's finest sporting heroes. After heated discussions and extensive deliberation, it's time to announce the winner of this most prestigious of awards

Toby Bryant
11th December 2017
Shona Haston is the winner of Team Newcastle's Sports Personality of the Year. Image: NUAXC

First Place: Shona Haston: Athletics and Cross Country (nominated by Toby Bryant)

Cross Country Captain Shona Haston may only be in her second year at Newcastle University but has already shown a phenomenal commitment to her sport and dedication to her teammates.

From the moment she set foot in Newcastle from hometown, Teesdale, Haston threw herself into sporting life. An unwavering commitment as a Fresher not only saw her consistently perform out of her skin but the Mechanical Engineering student was also voted Runner of the Year at the Newcastle University Athletics and Cross Country Summer Ball. Last year’s Cross Country Captain, Susie Shiel-Rankin recalls: “Taking every session, race and social in her stride from day one, Shona’s dedication to our team has been second to none. It’s been wonderful to see her confidence in her performance grow and flourish as a popular member of the team. It’s an absolute pleasure to have run on the same team as her.”

When not getting the kilometres under her belt, Haston is regularly seen at the club’s socials. Although these events may seem to hardly be a chore, her enthusiasm to embrace all aspects of NUAXC life has allowed het to forge strong relationships with members on both sides of the club and gain a tremendous amount of respect.

The 2017-18 academic year sees Shona step up to become Cross Country Captain, alongside James Anthoney. Due to the fact that Cross Country only have a volunteer coach once a week, Shona regularly takes charge of training sessions and does so with aplomb. She is always in discussion with Anthoney to make sessions enjoyable as well as working with conditions and any injuries that members may have. However, more than anything, Shona is an absolute joy to train with. Her cheerful determination when faced with a gruelling track session or relentless rain goes a very long way in team morale and performance.

Shona’s role also sees her organise races across the country, including Edinburgh, Leeds and London. Transport for these events can also be difficult so Haston has taken it upon herself to drive the squad all across the nation to allow them to compete. Driving a large number of people is a huge responsibility and means that Shona must sometimes step back at post-race socials in order to make sure she is in the perfect condition to get the club back home the morning afterwards. NUAXC President, Katie Travers says: “Shona has truly been an inspiration for all athletes in NUAXC. She has been successful in guiding new athletes and regularly leading sessions. I am proud to have the privilege to work alongside her.”

On top of all of this, Shona has been battling her own personal demons with a long-term shin injury. However, somehow, she has still managed to compete to the highest ability. When the injury is too severe to run, there is no chance that Shona will disappear. No matter her own fitness, she will continue to turn up to training and races to cheer on others, often coming straight from her own gym session to aid injury rehab. To see Shona so determined to overcome her own personal adversity really does inspire her teammates and her genuine care that the squad’s sessions should go ahead whatever deserves to be recognised.

The University’s Cross Country team is an official member of the AU but is run single-handedly by the Cross Country Captains. It’s quite evident that without Shona, the Cross Country team wouldn’t be able to train or compete. Carrying this burden selflessly and dealing with the physical and mental strains of it is why Shona Haston deserves to be Sports Personality of the Year!

Ben Swyer takes second place. Image: NUSYC

Second Place: Ben Swyer: Sailing (nominated by James Sparks)

Ben has been with the club since day one of first year (4yrs ago), we both joined team together and since that moment he was always been getting stuck into everything. Moving into second year he took a place on committee and hasn’t left since, fulfilling various roles including team captain and president.

During his time as team captain he successfully managed the move from our historic training site at South Shields to our new training ground Derwent Reservoir. Not only this but at the same time being an integral part in the application of a Sports England grant for new team boats, which was successful and he improved the universities ranking within BUSA.

Since becoming president Ben has not taken his foot of the gas at all, he really has done everything in his power to improve the club as a whole. The club has three main sectors to it; team, social and yachting. Under his presidency all have grown strongly, this is down to his great team leadership with the committee.

With Ben at the helm the club has turned its finances around and is now looking very healthy and in a great position to grow, club membership is now in triple figures which it hasn’t been since I’ve been at university and we are now the number one university sailing club in the North.

This year Ben sits as the chair of the BUSA northern universities committee, flying the Newcastle flag and ensure that all the northern universities get the best out of BUSA.

However his achievements extend further than just the team sector of the club, Ben has been a champion with promoting social sailing and yachting. Last year I worked closely with him to make our club one of few in the country that offers boating course that can result in our members and all students of the university receiving internationally recognised boating certification. He has also worked tirelessly to get the club out into the wider community, outside of the university. Last year we took 50 inner city disadvantaged children sailing at Derwent Reservoir with resounding success, again all initiated by Ben’s foresight and drive.

I hope that this description of what Ben has done for the university sailing club gives you a taste of what he has achieved in his time here. The committee, club and I all hold him in great esteem and we all truly believe that he would be a more than worthy recipient of the sports personality of the year award.

Maria claims third place. Image: NUBC

Third Place: Maria Pregnolato: Basketball (nominated by Courtney Strait)

Maria is one of those people that you always want to be around - she is hardworking, motivating and supportive. Maria tore her ACL during the heart of last years' season and has used her injury as fuel to come back stronger this season.

She has gone above and beyond what is required of her in terms of supporting her team and working hard toward joining us on the court once again.

Despite her injury, Maria has done her best to attend every strength and conditioning session as well as training sessions, despite the fact that she could not participate until very recently. Her encouragement on the sidelines and positive attitude during games is unprecedented and her character is infectious - she has even made long treks to attend our away games, despite the face that the bus rides are long and attendance is not mandatory.

Not to mention, Maria has brought treats for the team and suggested team bonding events to bring us together and keep us in good spirits. I know for a fact every person in the club appreciates Maria and backs her nomination as Sports Personality of the Year.


The other shortlisted nominees:

Sarah Poyntz: Water Polo (nominated by Megan Lord)

Sarah joined NUWPC in her first year of university, in September 2015, having previously played polo for several years in her home town of Sheffield.

Since then, she has been an essential member of the first team for three years. Playing on the top of the arc she works hard to assist several goal scoring opportunities, as well as throwing a few in herself, scoring over 10 goals in 5 apearances this season, and is ever reliable on the defence. She is a true team player and always brings out the best in other players. Her role as first team captain this year has highlighted her abilities as a great leader and true role model. Her tactical understanding of the game has helped develop the way the team plays. She has also taken on responsibilities of coaching many training sessions, giving girls who have never played polo before the opportunity to learn the game in a fun and positive way.


Kamil Aiman: Sepak Takraw (nominated by Dan Aston)

Kamil is a brilliant addition to the Sepak Takraw Club in all aspects.

He is a natural at the game, playing to a very high standard, however much more important is his commitment, always showing up to play and coach. He is a key part of the team, always trying to help others improve their game, and bringing a competitive; but very friendly and fun feel to the matches.

In a relatively small club, we focus on enjoying the game, having a laugh and a bit of fun twice a week, and Kamil represents exactly that.


Harry Glover: Rugby Union (nominated by Jack Pennell)

Harry is in his second year of Newcastle studying Politics. He has represented England 7s at six tournaments and has two more upcoming events this year in Dubai and Cape Town. He was part of the England Team last year when they won Silver and Bronze in London and Singapore respectively, contributing to them finishing second in the World Series. Harry has also been an integral part to our 7s programme last year taking up a player and coaching role at training. He has also provided much flare and prowess to our 1st XV this year and helping them stride the top of the table and on target to reach the Super League Playoffs. Harry alongside 15 friends has also been a part of raising £12,000 for Brave the Shave which is a charity that raises money for people living with cancer. This is why we believe Harry is worthy of the big prize.


Jason Bass: Rugby League- Michael Dunsmore

Jason has been an avid member of Newcastle University Rugby League since his first year. Since then he has honed his skills a a player which has propelled him to stardom. Have only started playing rugby at the age of 14, he has worked tremendously hard at his game and now has a long list of success which include a part time, semi-pro contract with Coventry Bears, selection for the North East Regional Team and, most impressively, selection for England Students recently competing at the Student Rugby World Cup in Australia over the summer.

As well as being an exceptional player, Jason has been a prominent member of the club. He has help numerous committee positions: last year he was first team captain and club secretary; and this year chosen to be the co-president alongside Nick Galvin. Jason is an amazing player, a triumphant president and a great friend. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award.


Beth Marron: Netball (nominated by Hollie Joyce and Mia Day)

Our Vice-President Beth works really hard both on and off the court to make netball a fun and enjoyable environment for everyone within the club.  She is a valuable member of our 1st team, regularly sinking game-winning shots and encouraging everyone on court. Queen of the social rap battles, you'll find her on the Soho/Sinners/Tiger route every Wednesday making sure all the freshers are looked after and having a good time. Beth's love and enthusiasm for NUNC extends off the court and is demonstrated by her dedication to organising both intra-mural umpiring week in week out, sorting out our BUCS umpires and helping out at the last minute Beth's commitment is second to none and she will be greatly missed if she goes on a year abroad to Canada.


Joe Hopkins: Darts (nominated by Chris Walton)

Joe has made a number of contributions to the club. His performance has improved so much that he's gone all the way from a second team regular to second team captain, with his “promotion” to this post being a particular highlight. He also organises tournaments, sweepstakes and other events. Joe is such a character that he makes great content to be included in memes kindly put together by the club.In the 2s recent game against Leeds with the score at 5-5, he lost the deciding game himself as to not hurt his young team members' feelings. Joe gets an attitude as a "miserable" person, but this is massively unjust. He is always smiling, laughing, joking, and is a role model to us all.


Nick Bennett: Canoe (nominated by Dan O'Donnell)

Nick gas recently won Team Newcastle a gold medal (among various silver and bronze medals) at BUCS WWR, helping the Club finish second overall. He has been influential in training members of BUCS events over the last year. Nick is not a committee member but has taken various younger members under his wing and trained them to be fantastic kayakers. In addition to this he frequently ran morning training sessions despite this not being his responsibility and has helped instil a competitive ethos within the club. He's just generally a top guy, great coach and brilliant member of Team Newcastle.

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