Winners and runners up from our South East Regional Volunteer Awards

We’re over half way through this year’s England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards – rewarding the invaluable contribution of Athletics and Running volunteers across the country and, this year, placing a spotlight on the huge role they have played in helping to navigate our sport through the impacts of Covid-19.

The fifth of our virtual regional awards nights was held to honour volunteers in the South East region! Broadcast live online, it was a fantastic opportunity to share the amazing stories behind the positivity, hard work and selflessness shown by volunteers throughout the South East who have had such a significant impact on Athletics and Running during such a unique and challenging year.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the South East are…

Athletics & Running @Home Award – South East

Winner: Thomas Presho (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC)

Congratulations to Tom Presho of Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow AC who is the winner of the Athletics & Running @Home award for the South East. Tom is a valued multi-event coach who has created a squad of successful athletes. He makes everyone in the group feel welcome and helps when he sees someone feeling worried, upset or anxious. During lockdown, Tom made everyone in the group feel motivated to continue training to the best of their ability and push themselves to undertake new challenges. Predicting lockdown, Tom planned ahead and worked out individual conditioning plans and analysed countless videos to find personal improvements for each athlete. He also set up small virtual races to help keep everyone motivated when solo running for endurance and on roads which was a new terrain for everyone. As lockdown started he listed the equipment needed by everyone to help everyone prepare. He is known for giving constant, consistent support and encouragement even when athletes are doubting themselves and this came to the fore during lockdown. There was always something to look forward to from seeing the group on a Zoom call or experiencing the support all the athletes gave each other after a run.

Runner-up: Jenny Castle (Running4Fun)

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Club of the Year – South East

Winner: Guernsey AC

Guernsey AC, the winner of the South East Regional Volunteer Awards Club of the Year , had an innovative and successful approach to maintaining athletics activity through lockdown. The club’s initiatives included a solo running programme with a supporting webpage which successfully increased the number of people involved in club level athletics. From individually coached sessions to socially distanced groups, from participation trail races to elite level track and field, it has provided options for everyone. The club has involved itself in a major initiative to massively increase its officiating numbers looking towards the upcoming Island Games. It has also created innovative events such as a corporate relay, a cliff path trail series and a mass participation half marathon, to encourage participation in athletics and running across the island. Officials and volunteers also got involved in school events and made sure to follow up with invitations to club events. By running colts (U11, U9, U7) sessions and athletics camps, the club has continued to increase engagement with young athletes by involving keen young teenage athletes in support roles. A volunteer league system has also been put in place where volunteers collect points towards rewards such as a London Marathon place.

Runner-up: Mole Valley Runners

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Coach of the Year – South East

Winner: Bob Willows (Brighton & Hove AC)

Winner of the Coach of the Year award for the South East, Bob Willows of Brighton And Hove AC, is renowned not only for his athletes’ medals and records, but also for always having a smile on his face ready to start a session. He takes into account all his athletes’ strengths and weaknesses both as a team and as individuals and works with them all to help improve their performances. Bob has created a team bond with his jokes and support which helps the group to perform well season after season. The atmosphere he has fashioned at training is something everyone warms to, both hardworking and competitive but also enjoyable. Bob makes all of his athletes feel involved and also gets supporters involved as well: multiple supporters of the group recently became Level 1 officials because Bob persuaded them that it would be beneficial to both the team and to the Club. When anyone in the group feels down, he does his utmost to make them laugh or even smile a little. He then goes the extra mile, either after the session or the next morning, by calling the athlete to check in on how they are doing.

Runner-up: Andrew Hughes (Bracknell AC)

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Run Leader of the Year – South East

Winner: Mark Mathias (Waterside Runners)

The Run Leader of the Year award for the South East goes to Mark Mathias of Waterside Runners. Mark motivates, supports and encourages the group and adapts his approach to make sure all abilities are supported. Described as down to earth, incredibly supportive of the group, especially new runners, and generous with his praise, Mark is a dedicated and committed Run Leader who helps everyone enjoy running. Running with others provides motivation, guidance and support, as well as being more enjoyable so the inclusive, friends and fun sessions which Mark leads certainly tick those boxes. With new runners he is particularly supportive and runs with them to make their introduction to running with Waterside Runners as positive an experience as possible. He is liked by everyone and is very much missed if he’s not able to attend a session for whatever reason. Mark never fails to show the group how proud he is of them and gently pushes them to achieve their goals whatever their ability. He recognises different strengths and weaknesses and targets the activities in his groups to accommodate this, never discounting anybody. Mark allows the faster runners to lead groups while he supports the slower members.

Runner-up: Sandi Starling (Hamstreet Runners)

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Official of the Year – South East

Winner: Christopher Parkinson (Wycombe Phoenix Harriers & AC)

Christopher Parkinson of Wycombe Phoenix Harriers & Athletics Club has made continuous and substantial contributions to all levels of athletics for many years as a timekeeper and photo finish judge, both at Level 4, and as a pole vault coach. Winner of the Official of the Year award for the South East, he is regularly involved with all levels and aspects of our sport including: disability athletics at Stoke Mandeville; schools meetings including area championships for the state and private sectors and the English Schools’ Athletic Association championships; indoor sprint open meetings at Eton and middle distance open meetings at Watford to name but a few. He is always willing to give advice and training to developing officials, especially young officials, and has inspired many by introducing them to these disciplines and giving them continuous encouragement and mentoring to progress to the highest levels. Many have achieved national, and some international, level appointments as a result of his continued interest and inspiration. He has made a constant and ongoing commitment to BUCS and Masters athletics in the UK as an invaluable resource and supporter, single-handedly owning and overseeing seeding and results for all their major competitions for many years.

Runner-up: James Charles (Banbury Harriers AC)

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RunTogether Group of the Year – South East

Winner: WBRT – West Berkshire RunTogether

The West Berkshire RunTogether group – WBRT – has been active for nearly five years and aims to help introduce people to activity to help improve their lifestyle. Winner of the RunTogether Group of the Year award, the group has embraced the #RunAndTalk programme, setting up a session to promote mental health and wellbeing and in so doing has positively turned many lives around. Sessions are run over evenings and weekends and time is given to make each session special, so that each runner always goes home with a smile on their face. The group’s oldest runners are in their mid-70s and are a true inspiration to many younger runners: the conversation on the runs becomes a means of support with runners of all ages which helps everyone in a truly special way. Lockdown introduced new ways for the runners to keep connected and motivated such as completing challenges, which helped keep the RunTogether ethos alive. The leaders use their existing runners as ‘buddies’ on runs and all new runners are welcomed and well looked after. Many of the runners have formed firm friendship groups and some have brought friends and family to see for themselves the friendly support provided.

Runner-up: Crawley Run Crew

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Services to Athletics or Running – South East

Winner: Philip Baker (Chichester Runners & AC)

The winner of the Services to Athletics award for the South East is Philip Baker of Chichester Runners & Athletics Club. Phil’s unstinting commitment makes him one of the most recognisable individuals in Sussex athletics. He has been unwavering in the promotion of all aspects of junior athletics from encouraging year 5s and upwards to join the club. Phil’s drive and enthusiasm have created some of the most popular events on the Sussex athletics calendar. Not only does he coach athletes, arrange teams, organise transport and be fully engaged at events, Phil writes a comprehensive weekly report for the Chichester Observer Newspaper which raises the club’s profile in the community and gives athletes motivational recognition. He provides words of warmth and encouragement ensuring that everyone feels they are contributing to the team. It’s impossible to quantify how many owe Phil gratitude for giving them the opportunity to be engaged in athletics. Several have become top athletes but the rewards for the majority in being part of a team, challenging themselves, being healthy and making friends, have had a significant impact on their lives – directly due to one man, Phil Baker. Phil has always been, and remains, dedicated to athletics.

Runner-up: Paul Lockyer (Sutton & District AC)

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Volunteer of the Year – South East

Winner: Tracey Jones (Southampton AC)

Congratulations to Tracey Jones of Southampton Athletics Club who wins the Volunteer of the Year award for the South East. Tracey got involved with athletics through her son and she quickly became an official for the club. Moving on she qualified as an assistant coach, then full jumps coach and later she became officials secretary and also the main organiser of the SAC open competitions, which have grown in popularity year on year. Recently she took over the role of club chair giving many hours to improving the club for young and old. She is friendly, enthusiastic and approachable: she can be found scoring, serving tea and coffee, on field, helping everywhere. She also helps run the foundation academy for young athletes encouraging them all the way. Described as the heart and soul of the club, Tracey actively encourages parents and people from the local community to get involved with the club. Regular emails are sent to parents explaining roles within the club and how anyone can join in and learn – enabling them to take the opportunity as far as the individual decides to take it. Tracey just has a way about her that makes you want to join in.

Runner-up: Christine Taylor (Epsom & Ewell Harriers AC)

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Young Volunteer of the Year – South East

Winner: Francesca Rowland (Slough Junior AC)

Winner of the Young Volunteer of the Year award for the South East, Francesca Rowland of Slough Junior Athletics Club, provides invaluable support in the day-to-day operation of the club. Having joined the club aged 6, she competed throughout her developmental years and when she stopped competing, she committed herself totally to supporting the club, its athletes, coaches, and members with the same dedication and infectious “can do, will do, give me the next thing” attitude she had as an athlete. Francesca combines coaching with administrative and senior committee roles. She’s also continuing to develop her coaching skills as well as providing fun and inspirational exciting sessions for younger athletes. Her commitment is not CV building; it is giving back to the club, our sport and the local community. Totally dedicated to supporting and developing everyone, she brings inestimable value to the club through her experience in welfare and mental health issues. The club embraces this fully, ensuring the whole athlete is coached, not just the physical attributes of the athlete. Francesca is a champion of this athlete-centric, holistic approach and embodies the club’s ethos of “be at your best”; she is very highly valued by everyone involved with the club.

Runner-up: Alex Gurteen (Epsom & Ewell Harriers AC)

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Click here for more information about our 2020 England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards.