College class of 2018 showcases sporting talent

Sports stars achieved a string of notable accolades in 2018 on the back of their studies at Gateshead College – with some showcasing their abilities on the national stage.

There was an array of outstanding individual and team performances across a wide range of sporting disciplines including netball, football, basketball, rugby and athletics.

In men’s football, students at the college’s Academy for Sport netted several noteworthy accolades, with talented midfielder Elliot Forbes securing a contract with Vanarama National League side Gateshead Football Club (FC). The Ryton playmaker joined the ‘Heed’ after completing a two-year BTEC in sports science at the Academy for Sport followed by a one-year scholarship with the football club. It was also a successful year for midfielder Harry Outterside, who was selected for the English Colleges Football Association (ECFA) national squad.

The outstanding team performance of the year came from Gateshead 3s Football Academy Under-19s, who were crowned winners of the North East Colleges League (NECL) Cup. They triumphed 4-3 against Bishop Auckland College in a goal-fest at South Shields’ Mariners Park, with a Rhys Vinnicombe strike and a hat-trick for Jack Parker securing the victory.

Further afield, Charlie Exley landed a full-time professional contract at Scottish Championship side Queen of the South after completing a one-year BTEC in sports and exercise science. The centre back was signed to bolster the Doonhamers’ defensive ranks as the Dumfries club look to push for promotion to the Scottish Premiership. And in women’s football, Abbie Watson is now showcasing her talents across the Atlantic after winning a scholarship to study at Louisiana State University Eunice in the US.

Away from the football pitch it was also a year of success for Gateshead Harriers athlete Emily Stewart, who was invited by British Athletics to join the Paralympic Development Academy from January 2019. The selection panel acknowledged Emily’s ability and potential to progress to the Paralympic Futures Academy in the next 1-2 years and to the World Class Program (WCP) within 3-5 years – with the aim of competing at future Paralympic Games.

Emily also participated in the athletics heats of the 2018 Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) World Games in Sant Cugat near Barcelona in August. She was among only a handful of competitors from the region to be chosen to attend the eight-day event, which gives talented athletes with cerebral palsy and related neurological conditions the chance to showcase their sporting prowess across several disciplines.

It was a successful tournament for Emily, who came away from the World Games as a five-time CPISRA world champion. Back home she also competed against international stars at the Anniversary Games in front of 27,000 people in London’s Olympic Stadium, finishing a highly creditable fourth in the 200 metres event.

In basketball, Themba Yabantu was called up to the senior Newcastle Eagles squad after impressing in the club’s School of Excellence under-23 side in Division 4 of the National Basketball League – regularly finishing games as the top scorer. Meanwhile, nine Gateshead College students were invited to enrol on the Eagles’ Diploma in Sporting Excellence. Forwards Sauveur Kande and Dan Ridley, centre Jeremy Lievin and point guards Adam Fetherston and Joel Burns joined guards Elis Karam, Aironas Sukys, Nariman Mokaberi and Adam Routledge on the programme, which enables students to compete in the Elite Academy Basketball League, teaches them about off-court aspects of performance sports and prepares them for a future in the industry.

In rugby, promising star Zack Bolton is set to embark on a Stateside adventure after securing a scholarship to enhance his sporting talents in the US. From January 2019, he’ll study for a sports degree and train at a top university in America, using the talents he displayed while completing his sports studies course and extended sports diploma at Gateshead College.   

Netball was also a discipline in which several students excelled in 2018. The Netball Academy A team finished runners-up in the Association of Colleges (AoC) league in May and repeated the feat in November when they came second in the AoC’s regional tournament. On top of that, second year A-Level student Amy Robinson was selected for the England AoC squad for 2018-19.

Meanwhile, 2018 was also a year of achievement for boxing student Humza Ali Afzal, who reached the national finals of the senior development championships (at 75kg weight). Humza, who is studying for an Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence at Gateshead College, progressed through the regional heats and won his national quarter and semi-final bouts before losing narrowly against the London regional champion, Antonio Dujon from West Ham Amateur Boxing Club.

Liam Gumbrill, sports academy lead at Gateshead College, said: “2018 was a great year for our students who, through their hard work and sporting talents were able to excel on the regional and national stage and I’d like to congratulate them all on their fantastic achievements.”

To find out more about Gateshead College and the courses on offer, go here.