We’re pleased to announce the inaugural winners of the Athletics Weekly Club Awards, supported by Ronhill
Clubs from every part of the UK entered the new Athletics Weekly Club awards. With just four categories of awards to aim for, competition has been intense. The winning club’s prize in each of the four categories is Ronhill clothing worth £400, along with a special trophy. After much scrutiny and some tough decision-making, we are delighted to announce the winners…
Blackburn Harriers has won the inaugural AW club award for “best club” thanks to its all-round impressive qualities.
Most of all, its individual athletes have enjoyed tremendous success in 2011. Sophie Hitchon and Holly Bleasdale broke British records in the hammer and pole vault respectively. Hitchon also won the world junior title in 2010 and European under-23 bronze in 2011, while Bleasdale took the European under-23 title in 2011.
In addition, Alison Leonard won gold in the BUCS 1500m, while the club has also enjoyed success in mountain running with Karl Billington, Dominic Mahoney, Beckie Taylor and Tom Cornthwaite.
When it comes to team events, the club has won the Northern League division one title for the past three years, while its young athletes have been frontrunners in national fell running competitions and are one of the strongest teams in the UK Young Athletes’ League Northern Premier division.
In addition, the club hosts many meetings from its Witton Park epicentre – ranging from schools competitions and Star Track events through to masters road races.
The club said in its letter to Athletics Weekly: “For a regional club to have such a variety of elite world-class potential Olympic performers as well as numerous GB and England vests at senior and junior level in events from pole vault and hammer to mountain running is quite remarkable.
“Add that to the team achievements at track and field and endurance shows a regional club, from a small, football-dominated town, punching well above its weight and doing all it can to promote athlete development and team spirit across all disciplines and age groups.
“It’s a real team effort led by the committee, coaches and officials with help from longstanding members and committed parents. We are a real, local community club, embracing all athletics disciplines and supporting athletes of all levels and ages.”
AW certainly agrees, hence our decision for this award.
With strong individuals and great teams in general, Stockport Harriers is one of the stalwarts of the endurance-running circuit.
The club has been strong for several years, with cross country and hill running athlete Steve Vernon leading the way ahead of a strong crop of youngsters. But in 2011 the club won the senior men’s team title at the English National Cross Country Relays.
In addition Ross Millington won 5000m silver in the European Under-23 Championships, while Elle Baker was part of the gold medal-winning women’s squad at the European Cross Country Championships earlier this month as she finished 14th individually. Then there is Jess Coulson, another Stockport stalwart who has enjoyed a great comeback year in 2011.
With Blackburn winning the “best club” award, it means the North West has dominated the inaugural club awards, laying down the gauntlet to clubs from the rest of the UK for next year!
A hugely competitive category, the inaugural award could have gone to a number of very deserving big clubs, but we plumped for Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow AC for their all-round successes in 2011.
Often known simply as “WSEH”, they won the Jo Smith Cup, the women’s team finished third in the UK Women’s League Premier and the club’s men placed third in division one of the British Athletics League.
At young athletes’ level, WSEH were runners-up in the UK Young Athletes’ League Final in Birmingham and fourth in the National Junior League final in Derby. As the club said on its nomination form, this all comes “from a club without sponsorship with just under 600 members”.
The club is also well known for its vibrant coaching and development of athletes through the age groups. Events such as the Alder Valley League are used to blood youngsters into competition, while the Southern Leagues are used for seniors who may not presently be part of the national league teams.
North Somerset AC is a small club, but growing fast. It was set up as recently as 2004 when four athletes and two coaches held a small initial gathering in Clevedon. They also do not have a track to train on. But they now have more than 350 young people supported by more than 30 coaches and are also making a big effort to build an all-weather track in the near future.
This development award recognises a club which is doing the most to further young-athlete development and coaching in general. During its short history, North Somerset ticks these boxes. Its coaches are UKA-qualified and the club’s strategy encourages athletes to eventually become coaches. The club has also recently been awarded Clubmark status.
It takes part in the Avon and South West Track and Field Leagues and also in the Gwent and Gloucester Cross Country Leagues. But the ambitious club wants to compete in the national youths leagues in 2012 and is currently working on raising its profile in local schools in order to boost its membership.
Writing an application to AW to win the award, the club said: “This club bucks the trend. It is new, vibrant, serves a largely rural area and has no regular training facilities. In fact its members are getting a reputation locally for training anywhere, from school fields, to the beach, woods and even the Mendip Hills.
“Young people are being attracted to the club in large numbers with over 300 competing members between 8 and 18. Fun and fitness are top of the agenda, but the club has already seen much success too in Sportshall, track & field, disability athletics, road and cross-country events, at all levels from county to national.”