Continuing our club night series featuring clubs from all corners of the British Isles, we this time focus on one from Greater Manchester
Trafford AC was formed by a group of athletics enthusiasts led by Bill Murphy and the late Jim Harris at Longford Park, Stretford, in 1964. The Stretford track is still the base for the club, club nights being Mondays and Thursdays with an extra session held through the day on a Sunday.
The stadium has earned the nickname “Oslo of the North” due to the tendency of the six-lane track to produce fast times in middle-distance races. The impressive track records are: 800m (1:45.63 Andrew Osagie) and 1500m (3:38.19 Bethwell Birgen), which were both set in 2011.
Jenny Meadows is a regular at the track meetings, competing over 400m and her favoured 800m. The 2011 world 800m bronze medallist set the women’s track record in 2014 with an excellent 1:59.34 in a mixed-gender race. In addition, the club has probably the most extensive programme of open meetings and medal meetings in the UK and hosts various British Milers’ Club events, such as the 10,000m Track Festival.
As well as hosting talent, Trafford AC has had more than 100 athletes who have competed at international level and in major championships. Previous alumni include: Paula Thomas (Commonwealth 100m bronze medallist in 1994), Shirley Strong (former 100m hurdles UK record-holder and 1984 Olympic silver medallist), Andrew Carter (former UK record-holder over 800m) and Chris Benning (Olympic 1500m fifth in 1984). More recently, Andrew Steele made the 2008 Olympic 400m semi-final in Beijing while being coached by Trafford’s Steve Ball. Seren Bundy-Davies, also coached by Ball, is a fast-emerging talent who won European indoor 400m bronze in Prague. Another, James Bowness, qualified for the European Indoor Championships over 800m courtesy of his fine 1:47.59 PB.
Developing the next generation of athletes has been the cornerstone of the philosophy led by Tom Cullen, lead coach of the junior sprinters and field-eventers at the club. The system created by Cullen involves all the coaches working together across the events on training nights.
External expertise and assistance has been sought from the national coach development scheme via John Crotty and Carl Foster.
The programme has seen in recent years the emergence of young talents such as Naomi Ogbeta, who broke the British intermediate age-group record for the triple jump with 12.61m in 2014. She also took the England Athletics and English Schools titles as part of a clean sweep of domestic honours.
A typical training session for the junior group is as follows (the days may vary):
» Saturday: Hill session 2x150m gradient sprints, 6x30m uphill sprints, plus 2 sets of uphill bounding or 2km fartlek
» Monday: Plyometrics, drills, jumps techniques, light weights
» Thursday: Track session: Tempo runs over 200m and 300m. Technique drills between 60m and 250m
Stretford, as they were known, were a road running powerhouse during the 1980s, winning several road relay medals, including national six-stage titles in 1984 and 1989.
Internationals Peter Tootell, Nick O’Brien, Karl Harrison, plus stalwarts Clive Bucknall and Mike Hutchinson, were the heartbeat of the team during that period.
The distance section has undergone a renaissance in recent times with some impressive performances among the younger athletes.
The team of Richard Powell, Zak Miller and Danny Lawton (pictured) won silver medals in the English cross-country relays at the start of the 2014-15 winter season.
Miller won the National under-17 cross-country title in 2014 to add to his European Cross selection for Great Britain in 2013.
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