Made nationally famous over the past 50 years by athletics greats such as Brendan Foster, Jonathan Edwards and Charlie Spedding, Gateshead Harriers is one of the country’s most successful and instantly recognisable clubs. England Athletics CEO, Chris Jones, and Head of Business Partnerships and Major Events, Dean Hardman, headed to the North East to see the club’s volunteers and athletes in training action and to hear what the Harriers means to them.
With a club record board reading like a who’s who of athletics (Stephen Miller and Richard Kilty are just a couple of more recent members to compete at global championships), it would be a mistake to see Gateshead as solely performance-focused, although the club members continue to shine at national championships. Just days before Chris’s visit, Jack Halpin had taken a silver medal at the England Athletics indoor age group championships in the U17 men’s shot and Jazmine Moss had secured a memorable victory in the U20 women’s 200m at the same meeting.
Indeed, long standing club coach and England Athletics national volunteer award winner Janice Kaufman was also busy coaching a group at the track that included 2018 World U20 110mH finalist Jason Nicholson among others.
At the same time, a large group of runners assembled in the Gateshead Stadium foyer to head out for a run and among their number was life member Syd Robson, a member of the club since 1947 and still an active runner, coach and mentor.
As well as competing in the Northern League in track and field and the NE Harrier League in Cross Country, the club plays a key part in the NE athletics scene, hosting Minors’ meetings for youngsters in school years 5, 6 and 7 and the popular Quayside 5k.
Chris commented, “With almost 1400 clubs in England affiliated to England Athletics one of the joys of our role is seeing the wide range of clubs and activities within the sport.
“One aspect of that is when we go to some of the clubs such as Gateshead Harriers we see quite a number of different types of activity being available within one club – a range of events, ages, abilities and aspirations all coming together as part of one club.
“What is common to all our clubs is the essential role played by the volunteers. Meeting those at Gateshead who work together to provide that wide range of opportunities on offer and cater for so many different athletes was very encouraging. It is also very useful for me to spend time speaking to different volunteers to understand their experiences in the sport and the opportunities and challenges that they face.
“I’m sure the club will continue to cater for a wide range of athletes and runners, and continue to add new chapters to its illustrious history within the sport.”
Gordon Bell, Chair of Gateshead Harriers commented, “We were delighted that Chris and Dean visited Gateshead Harriers & AC on a busy club night. They saw several aspects of the club in action – all events and all ages, the minors’ sessions, our links with the local community and services veterans.
“They could see how much goes on at Gateshead, meeting our junior track and field internationals Jazmine Moss and Jason Nicholson, seeing the expanding throws group and discussing the club’s endurance tradition and our commitment to disability sport.
“It was also a good opportunity to discuss the future of athletics at Gateshead with the stadium management.
“The evening passed quickly, I only hope they have run off their bounty from the tuck shop!”
Some interviews from Gateshead Harriers will be featuring in the next episode of our podcast – head to https://soundcloud.com/englandathletics to hear more of our content so far.