Harborough AC 2014 Awards Evening - Club Chairman's Speech
Before I get on to the awards I thought I’d waffle on for a bit about what’s special about this club – bear with me, I’ll try not to get too emotional…
We all have our contributions to make to the success of this club and so many go beyond what can reasonably be expected. It’s not just about competing, fundamental though that is. Whether it’s organising teams, officiating at track and field events, helping manage the club on the committee, coaching and leading groups, giving encouragement and support to our athletes at events, promoting the club to the outside world, fundraising, or simply welcoming new faces to the club, we all play our part, and it’s everyone’s commitment and passion that has helped us survive and prosper through three decades.
In the ten years I’ve been here I’ve seen athletes come and go and sometimes come back again, I’ve seen the junior ranks swell and in the last few years I’ve seen club records tumble, particularly but not exclusively in the junior girls’ categories. We’re better represented in the county cross country teams than ever and our ability to win track and field county medals despite having no track facility of our own is remarkable. There’s something that we need to get sorted out over the next thirty years…
The original founders of the club (Dick Callan, Peter Leach and Stewart Harrison) were determined that it was going to be an all-round athletics club – encompassing cross country and track and field and not just focusing on road running as so many other clubs do. I’m proud to be part of a club that remains true to that founding principle – for throwers, jumpers, hurdlers and walkers as well as for runners. Also a club that is for people of all ages, shapes and abilities, for people who want to compete, but also for those who want to improve, or just join in, or keep fit, or get fit. Most importantly I’m proud to be part of a club that is so full of friendship and support.
I know what any of us achieve in competition is unlikely ever to get close to the remarkable successes of a Wilson Kipketer (although never say “never” – I may personally have missed my chance, but some of you are young enough, so get to it with your training…!) But I do believe that the ethos within the club is world-class – friendly, sociable, supportive, but with a competitive edge that helps drive improvement in training and competition. So well done us. World-beaters in our own special way.
I’m nearly done with this bit – I know you want to find out who’s won what. But first I want to say a few 'thank you’s' to do with this awards night.
Graham Hillier is the behind-the-scenes mastermind of the awards night – this is his last year doing it unless we can persuade him. He’s not here now but will be along later. He’s got a particularly feeble excuse for not being here (family wedding or something!) As in previous years he’s been ably supported by a team who just get on with it. Sean and Yvonne Fenwick have managed the tickets and the excellent raffle, Maureen Brown, Sue Shrive and Maureen Brown have dealt with the table plan and place names and Heather Brown has sorted out these lovely flowers. The night is illuminated by the presence of our special guest, and without Kyle Barber I think there’s little chance that we would have a triple world champion, world record-holder and double Olympic medallist turning up to a small-town sports club in the east midlands!! There’s also some rather impressive raffle prizes that Kyle has sourced, not to mention a really excellent booklet that he’s put together to celebrate our 30th anniversary. So can we all express our thanks to everyone who’s organised tonight in the usual way please? And we have a few gifts as a small token of our gratitude.
Finally I’d like to thank Wilson Kipketer for spending time with us. I know I speak for many in the club when I say that your presence with us tonight and yesterday serves as a great inspiration to us all. I know that our youngsters, will have learnt so much listening to you and watching the videos of your races. More importantly I hope they will learn from your example: that it is possible to achieve great things in life with a single-minded focus but with humility, respect and friendship towards your fellow men and women. We’re proud to be supporting your charity Peace and Sport tonight.
Right then, who wants an award…?
Hilary Johnson Endurance Trophy
Awarded in memory of Hilary Johnson, international ultra-runner and member of Harborough AC. It’s awarded for doing something a bit extreme, touched by eccentricity, to put it politely.
Rachel Hardman once again took on some horrifying distances – when announcing results on a Tuesday I sometimes lose track about whether it’s kilometres or miles. But actually when it’s fifty or a hundred am I bothered – it’s an awful lot in one go! Ady King obviously didn’t learn from last year and again took on the Shires and Spires 35m across Northants shortly after a marathon. Andy Holt took on some madness in Wales that involved running (or moving anyway) up 30% gradients and plunging into an icy lake.
We know what ultra runners are like – low centre of gravity, shuffling gait, efficient, low impact running style. The award this year goes to someone who is patently not built for it, being tall, reasonably built with a long striding style. 100 kilometres (or was it miles – who cares?) was bound to end in injury, but undeterred and driven by charity fund-raising Mr Tom Ward spent over 13 hours on his feet and picked up a stress fracture which has put him out of action ever since. Worth it though Tom?
Coach of the Year Award
Graham Hillier has donated this trophy to the club – our first new trophy for a few years. It’s right that we should recognise the efforts of people who give of their time and expertise to help others – in fact now we’ve got it you can’t help thinking why didn’t we have this before?
Traci Edwards and the Monday night team continue to oversee the training of great numbers of junior athletes, and it has been good to see the team’s success in getting more of these youngsters out to compete. Rick Brown has provided one-to-one dedicated coaching for Karen Brooks that has supported her remarkable achievements on the national and international stage over the last few years.
I refer to the person who wins this award as our full-time employee…it’s just that we don’t pay him. He puts in hours and hours of effort for the club, not restricted to coaching, also officiating, race-directing and helping on the committee. He’s an expert coach, helping get the best out of many of our juniors, reassuring and cajoling and helping them progress. He’s played a huge role in the improvement of our junior girls’ teams over the last few years, but he’s always ready to help old dogs like me who many would regard as being beyond help. It’s none other than our Coaching Co-ordinator John Thompson.
Most Improved Athlete of the Year
Claire Eales has taken some great strides forward in her regular trips to Corby for the parkrun and Andy Meads has benefited from his move to a proper club!
It takes a brave person to change tack as far as their main event is concerned – don’t we all secretly wonder whether we would actually be better at some other discipline if we only trained for it? Tom Ward at the hammer maybe?
This year’s winner has done just that and put her money where her mouth is. She has always been a committed team player, happy to throw, jump or walk as well as run. She then set her target to compete at a European championship in her new race-walking discipline and was delighted to return from Turkey with two top ten placings. Since returning, she has knocked a further minute off her 10k time. Lin Farrow.
Yvonne Scarrott has competed with success at miscellaneous 10k and half-marathon races and Ady King has once more raced consistently well.
Our winner has improved dramatically since joining the club and I’m sure has the opportunity to improve still further. Consistent performances over the East Midlands Grand Prix were rewarded with a top ten league position in the compettive senior men’s category: Andy Meads.
Club/ Team Athlete
This award is for a reliable team-mate, always willing to compete, consistently giving their all and supporting the rest of the team. The senior track and field team is full of people who will give anything a go, do multiple events to help the team – Martha Clapp, the Taylor boys, Matt Driver are examples. In the Heart of England League the strength of the under-15 girls meant that girls like Lauren Evans and Urusla Clapp took on events that were a long way from their comfort zone to help the team overall. This year the award goes to someone who quietly goes about winning her specialist event, then mucks in to pick up points in a load of other events as well as keeping her team-mates organised and focused (a tough job when you’re trying to keep order among the senior track and field team). Lianne Brooks.
Best Newcomer of the Year
Andy Meads has added significant strength to our senior men’s team on the road and track (if not so much in the shot putt!).
The award goes to someone who really has burst onto the scene and is clearly full of potential to achieve further in our sport – under-13 and under-15 record-holders: start watching your backs…. She performed well in the North Mids cross country season and on the track has set four club records, won four medals at the county championships and is double county champion setting county records in her age-group at 600 metres and 1200 metres. Hannah Smith.
Club Service Award
Coaches, team managers, administrators, people who enable our athletes to compete – often unseen, quietly getting on with things – that’s what we’re looking for here. Somebody like Steve Driver as an example, always happy to lend a hand in any capacity at T & F meetings, despite having a knack of attracting javelins, discuses and hammers towards him! This award goes to a former chairman, who has continued to serve the club above and beyond the call of duty – he has been heavily involved in fundraising this year, organising social events, not to mention continuing in the pivotal role of tent supremo! Martin Hughes.
Cross Country Runner of the Year
Once again it was the girls and women who excelled for us over the winter. Hannah Eveleigh was the pick of our North Mids League runners, finishing 7th overall and picking up gold in the veteran category. There were also medals for Karen Brooks, Lizzie Clapp and Niamh Watson. We were well-represented in the county and schools county teams – Lottie Edwards, Sophie Domingo, Mollie Watson, Niamh Watson, Martha Clapp, Karen Brooks and Hannah Eveleigh all being honoured with selection for the Inter-Counties and/or English Schools events that represent the culmination of the domestic season in March.
The award goes to a young woman who was our highest-placed finisher across all age-groups in the three highest quality national events: English Schools, Inter-Counties and English National where she finished a highly impressive 66th. Lottie Edwards.
Track Performance of the Year
This award is for a one-off achievement over a day or two. We’ve already mentioned a good number of club records being set this year so there’s no shortage of examples to choose from.
The track performance of the year came at the Harborough medal fest that was the Leicestershire & Rutland County Championships. It could be Sophie Domingo (75m hurdles gold), or Emma Knight (senior women’s 100 metres champion), but goes to someone who got three medals on the track. Day one of the championships saw our runner qualify from the heats and grab bronze in the 800 metres final as several Charnwood athletes missed the start as they warmed up on the back strait as the gun went off (ha!). Day two and there was another bronze in the 200 metres. And so to the 300 metres, almost the last track event of the two days. She led from gun to tape, running with her smooth, relaxed style that makes you think she’s not trying. County under-15 300 metre champion Alice Tansey.
Sue Clayton-Drabble Track & Field Award
This award is for contribution to the ladies’ veteran track and field team. There is a great spirit in the team and there are plenty of candidates to choose from for this award – Anne Knights, Jenny Jones, Lin Farrow, Marise Taylor, Nicola James, Karen Brooks, Sarah Blencowe. This year’s winner is someone who takes after her dad – giving her all for the club, churning out the points, battling through injury and providing some rather good banana cake (though I’m not sure Stuart ever excelled at that). She’s not with us tonight but congratulations go to Nicola James.
Field Athlete of the Year
Talking of Stuart Avins he sadly dropped to no.2 in the UK this year in his age group for the high jump, and also features in the top ten for long jump and triple jump. Lianne Brooks set another pole vault club record and Jill Roginski won all bar one of the eight events she entered this year.
The award goes to someone who has become something of a multi-events specialist at her many outings in both senior and masters field competitions. Marise Taylor.
Last year’s winner, Matt Driver, has continued to impress with his commitment to the club, particularly evident in the Senior T & F League. He is also threatening the 1.20 milestone for his half-marathon. By contrast, this year’s winner has raced sporadically, but always at a high standard. It is fitting on this historic night that the trophy goes to someone who joined the club soon after its formation: Sean Fenwick.
Veteran Male Athlete
Rick Brown set age-group club records at the mile and 5k. Sean Fenwick despite advancing years is still our quickest runner at races above middle-distance.
The winner is someone who has shown the benefits that consistent, structured training will bring. He’s raced at a high standard all year round on the roads and in the last year achieved the goal he set himself and which has been boring us for what seems like decades: sub three hours for the marathon. You can now concentrate on something more interesting, fun and sensible, and I don’t mean racing 35 miles, Ady King.
This year’s winner competed sparingly this year, but we felt that those races she did were of a sufficiently high standard to warrant this award. She finished 7th in the County XC, 35th in the Midland and 113th in the National, having comfortably won all 4 races in the North Mids League. She followed this up with a splendid 130th in the Inter-Counties XC. Hannah Eveleigh.
Veteran Female Athlete
Despite being within months of moving up an age group, this year’s winner still finished second to the new world record holder in the British Masters indoor 800m; she won British Championships outdoors at 800m and 1500m, where she is No.1 on the UK outdoor list. Probably most satisfying for her was to finally gain selection for the Inter-Counties XC. However, the highlight of her year was to knock 2 and 3 seconds respectively off her 800m and 1500m indoor times when coming 6th in the World Indoor Champs in Budapest : Karen Brooks.
Junior Male of the Year (Club Captain’s Award)
Sam Edwards contributed well on the track for the senior team and last year’s winner Charlie Blencowe again showed all-round commitment. On the country and road George Eveleigh appears to have inherited stylish and highly effective running technique and I’m sure he can achieve great things if he chooses to. The boys are starting to get into the club-record breaking trend that the girls launched a few years ago. This year we’ve had records set or equalled by George Lowe, Noah Smith, Jahiem Obazee, Will Parry – well done to all these.
This year’s winner is one of our younger members – under-11, but already a prolific competitor on the track and full of potential. He set the club’s 800m under-11 record, it’s Noah Smith.
Junior Female of the Year (Club Captain’s Award)
The girls have been up to their old tricks, re-arranging the club records. New records have been set by Hannah Smith, Lizzie Clapp, Martha Clapp, Charlotte Ellis, Sophie Domingo, Freya Tansey, and the under-15 girls once more have the fastest 4x100 metres time ever achieved by any Harborough females including seniors.
In the Northants and Leicestershire track and field championships we achieved a massive 23 medals, of which all but two were won by our junior girls. As well as some of the record-setters that we’ve already mentioned Mollie Watson, Niamh Watson, Alice Tansey and Beth Ellis all got in on the act.
Pre-eminent amongst all these was an extraordinary all-round athlete, who as well as being good enough to get in the county teams for cross country (for most of us this would be enough!) is county champion in her age group for high hurdles and high jump and silver medallist in javelin, 300 metres and long jump. The award goes to our ace multi-eventer who’s high jumped this year higher than any Harborough senior has ever managed, clearing 1m50: Sophie Domingo.
Athlete of the Year
This award is selected from the six age-group winners:
- Sophie Domingo
- Noah Smith
- Karen Brooks
- Hannah Eveleigh
- Ady King
- Sean Fenwick
In order to win this trophy two year’s running, there has got to be significant improvement from the previous year: the winner has amazed us by achieving this despite moving up another age category - it’s our globe-trotting superstar Karen Brooks.