Ivy League beckons for squash champion from Cramlington Learning Village

Cramlington Learning Village head teacher Wendy Heslop with Lucy Beecroft

Cramlington Learning Village student and squash champion Lucy Beecroft is heading off to one of the world’s most famous and prestigious universities.



Nineteen-year-old Lucy has just received a “likely letter” from Yale – a clear indication of an offer – after she passed tests in various academic subjects, completed the rigorous American Scholastic Aptitude Test and took part in a Trans-Atlantic interview.

Her efforts for Yale were in addition to her studies here, where she will sit A Levels in Biology, Maths and English Language next year.

Lucy – who won a bronze medal in the summer representing England in the World Junior Women’s Team Championship in the Netherlands – became aware several years ago that studying at an American university was a possibility. “They’ll go out of their way to get a good sports team but you can’t just walk in,” she said.

“I heard about people doing it, but never thought it would happen to me. But I looked more into it when I started sixth form and began to think about what to do after school. I decided it was a possibility after all, if I worked hard.”

Lucy said she has been helped all the way with both her studies and sport by the teaching staff at Cramlington: “The school’s always been supportive, if I’ve had to have any time off. They always go the extra mile – putting on extra revision classes if anyone’s struggling.”

She is the latest in a long line of the school’s students to win a place at some of the world’s best universities. Later this month three more will find out if their interviews at Cambridge will lead to offers of places and in the summer a former student graduated from Cambridge with a first class degree in mathematics. He is now waiting to hear whether he has been accepted by Stanford University in the United States to study for a doctorate.

Head teacher Wendy Heslop said: “We are proud of all of our students – whether they end up studying thousands of miles from home or at the excellent universities we have on our doorstep. For them all we try to support their ambition, whatever that might be. That is why I am so pleased for Lucy. As such a successful squash player she has always been a credit to her family and this school and she has worked really hard to win her place at Yale.”

Lucy’s course there will last four years and she plans to become a professional squash player after graduating. She fell in love with the Ivy League university when she visited two years ago: “It’s unreal. All the buildings look like cathedrals. Our national squash centre in Manchester has seven courts. At Yale there are 15. The American Football stadium holds 65,000 people and they fill it as well.”

Her parents were both good squash players and she was taken to their club in Tynemouth from a very early age and began playing when she was four or five.

Growing up, she dominated her age group and was ranked England’s number one when she was 13, 15, 17 and now at 19 – although a heel injury has brought a temporary halt to her progress. She also missed a season when she was 17 after a similar injury to her other heel.

Despite these setbacks she takes inspiration from her sporting hero Jessica Ennis-Hill, who is also the subject of Lucy’s A Level English course work. She fought back from injury to win a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Lucy would also love to compete in the Olympics but, if she gets that chance, she will have to wait until 2024. The organising committee of the 2020 games in Tokyo has picked karate, baseball and softball, surfing, skateboarding, and sports climbing ahead of squash as new sports for its games.

The venue for 2024 has yet to be decided but she hopes by then her sport has successfully made its case for inclusion.

“The argument against squash was that it wasn’t great to watch on TV. But the colours of the courts, balls and floors have been changed to make the games easier to see. A squash court can be put anywhere – they’ve had perspex courts in Hong Kong Harbour, in the middle of the pyramids in Egypt and in New York Central Station and it’s played all over the world in hundreds of countries,” said Lucy.

By then she will be in late 20s and at her playing peak. “I’d love to play at the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and all the tournaments across the world, but the Olympics is the pinnacle for any sport,” she said.