South West volunteer awards presented

South West volunteer awards presented

The England Athletics regional volunteer awards evenings are held to recognise and celebrate the work of our volunteers, without whom the sport could not function. Volunteers were nominated by their peers and the England Athletics regional councils then made the decisions of who would win. 

Winners are put forward to the National awards which are presented at our Hall of Fame gala evening on 14th October at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, where our national winners, other volunteers and stalwarts of the sport celebrate together with top athletes past and present - including those who will be inducted into the 2017 Hall of Fame and past inductees. 

Click here to find out more about our Hall of Fame.  Contact Alison Potts to buy tickets (£55 per ticket or £495 for a table of 10).

We are pleased to announce the South West Volunteer Award winners are:

  • Club of the Year: Avon Valley Runners
  • Coach of the Year: Neil Williams from Storm Plymouth
  • Official of the Year: Nigel Grist
  • RunTogether Leader / Group of the Year: Emma Wood of Highbridge Ladies Running Club
  • Volunteer of the Year: Hilary Nash of Bristol & West AC
  • Young Volunteer (14-25) of the Year: Danielle Page of Newton Abbott AC
  • Innovation Project of the Year: Bristol & West AC
  • Services to Athletics: Tony Jefferies of Yate & District AC

Their award nominations are reproduced below.

Club of the Year: Avon Valley Runners

AVR provides a supportive club for all abilities. It offers groups on four days, led by experienced runners, ranging in pace and distance. With a core of dedicated volunteers, up to 500 athletes can attend led group runs, coached interval sessions and local events, and are currently leading the Wiltshire Athletics 2017 Road League. It also offers regular beginners courses for new runners to be able to tackle a parkrun or 5km event for the first time. It also offers a course that turns 5k into a 10k.

It has a thriving junior section of over 70 athletes who are led by a strong coaching team. Due to this, juniors can train twice a week. This dedication has seen JAVR win the Wiltshire junior race league for the past three years.

By the end of 2017, AVR will have completed its latest major project in conjunction with the local rugby club in providing a dedicated all weather all year running track to enable them to have a safe secure area to provide additional sessions for all its members as well as the community at large. This has been a large undertaking for a purely volunteer led club and entailed them raising close to £30,000 to fund the project which was realised through numerous fundraising events as well as successful applications for community grants and the generosity of the local community and businesses.

Coach of the Year: Neil Williams from Storm Plymouth

Neil dedicates time and efforts helping others improve. He has recently been made head coach at Storm; he has put in a training structure which sees the club provide strength, conditioning, running skills, technique and track interval sessions. Essential for all runners, however somewhat unique within the road running community. He is passionate about helping all to run to the best of their ability in a safe and timed manner, encouraging many to think about their longevity in running by injury avoidance.

Neil set up a juniors group with Plymouth Argyle, investing a lot of time and his own money since we lost funding from the trust. The sessions are put on free of charge to reach as many youngsters as possible, some with special needs.

Recently Storm Plymouth have had four coaches qualify and Neil has spent time mentoring them. It’s great to see how these coaches are now helping Neil to from a better way of developing club members. Last year he applied for Club Run and was successful spending time working on a training plan that saw all that took part gain personal best performances.

As coaching co-ordinator for the local athletics network, he devises a plan for the track intervals for many of the running clubs. Constantly researching subjects to keep up to date with current ideas and practises, he is a regular attendee of coach development.

With all this going on, he still finds time to run marathons in aid of NSPCC, currently on 90!

Official of the Year: Nigel Grist

A very approachable official, NIgel goes out of his way to help at a myriad of events from local school competitions, regional competitions and to working in the Call Room at major events. He can be found starting races all around the South West, Midlands and Wales and is in high demand due to his excellent manner with athletes, especially the inexperienced ones! Nigel is a stickler for starting races correctly but always explains these rules fully before each race so that everyone understands. Nigel will always go out of his way to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.  His nominator said, "I had a very dyspraxic athlete who had real problems keeping in his lane but every time he competed but Nigel ensured, with the other official’s agreement trackside, that he was always given the lane nearest the rails so that he could compete safely without endangering other runners." He showed the same care with two very young deaf girls who were thrilled to be able to compete at our County Championships. Without Nigel as a starter, many events would not take place.

RunTogether Leader / Group of the Year: Emma Wood of Highbridge Ladies Running Club

Emma set up Highbridge Ladies in 2017 and in a short space of time has been truly inspirational in motivating two women's groups to start running, better themselves and love it through the power of Ladies That Can! No pace is too slow, she only encourages and supports every member to get active and be the best they can be. From the first group she recruited five additional run leaders who are embracing the ethos of the club and volunteering their time to help women young and old to run, jog and plod to a healthier way of life whilst forming friendships and support networks along the way.

Many of the women have been so inspired they’ve signed up for the Cardiff half marathon and that’s amazing. A deserving leader, Emma receives the RunTogether Leader of the Year award.

Volunteer of the Year: Hilary Nash of Bristol & West AC

Hilary Nash is the sort of volunteer no club can be without. He has been an active and inspirational volunteer for over 30 years and at 72 shows no sign of easing up.

In 2017 he coached the Club’s Junior Academy and Young Athlete sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights. In 2016, Olympic medallist Emily Diamond came to the club to show off her 4x400m relay medal, and recounted how Hilary was her first coach, much to the delight of those in his current group.

He has team-managed the club’s Youth Development League team and been an active supporter of Team Avon - a composite of 5 clubs in the area competing in the YDL Upper Age Group - that he was instrumental in setting up back in 2012.

As well as coaching, Hilary has helped stage club and county open track and field meetings and is equally at home as a qualified track or field judge and experienced timekeeper. Outside the club he is a stalwart of the Avon County Athletics League which runs four matches a year and he helps set up all four fixtures. In addition, he was team manager of the Avon U15 boys Sportshall team and assisted in setting up and running the Bristol and Avon selection events and picking the county team, which finished fourth in the National Final. Finally, he also fills the role of Treasurer of the Avon County Association.

Young Volunteer (14-25) of the Year: Danielle Page of Newton Abbott AC

From the day Danielle joined the club she showed enthusiasm and commitment at the same level she does today. Danielle rarely missed a training session and was always keen to compete both on the Track and Cross Country. When in her teens she started to have problems with shin splints. Although restricting her training and competition, she maintained an active involvement in athletics and many other activities with the guides and her school including taking part in the Ten Tors challenge on Dartmoor.

Danielle, rather than give up Athletics, started attending the Junior training sessions for primary school ages organised by the club as indoor sessions in the winter from October to March and immediately showed a rapport with the youngsters and willingness to learn about coaching. As a 16-year-old, she took her coaching assistant award and worked with other qualified coaches both throughout the winter and summer sessions and then this year she took her full coaching award. This entailed a four-day course, 10 weeks of coaching, including planning paperwork.

This year Danielle took a short-term apprenticeship with the South West Athletics Academy and has worked with both able bodied and less able bodied with degrees of special needs. Danielle is also an ambassador for Get Active Exeter in ‘Devon Girls Can’.

Innovation Project of the Year: Bristol & West AC

The advent of parkrun, ‘Couch to 5k’ and ‘Run 4 Life’ has seen running, especially recreational running, enjoy healthy participation numbers. Events sell out quickly and record numbers tackle 5k races on- and off-road. Despite this success, the track 5,000m races put on at open meetings and within the South West Championships have seen a notable fall in participation. The Club decided to take a lead from the BMC and the Highgate Harriers ‘Night of the 10,000 PBs’ and put on an event that would provide only back to back 5,000m track races.

The innovation in this project came in the way that the event encouraged those who have never raced on the track before to give it a go as well as experienced racers to target PBs. Each race was paced at a range of aspirational times from 22:30 towards a fast ‘A’ race paced at 14:30. Athletes could enter the race they wanted to, so they were not at risk of being seeded with a pacer or field that was running too quickly. Moreover, chip timing ensured that every competitor received printed 400m split times, in addition to race finish times from UKA qualified timekeepers that were Power of 10 compliant. The event led to 72 PBs with the first six races containing over 100 people who had never raced a 5,000m on a track before. It will be back next year with music and barbecue to attract even greater numbers.

Services to Athletics: Tony Jefferies of Yate & District AC

Tony (71) has been deeply involved in athletics for over40 years. Amazingly, he has always competed, winning age group medals at national level, whilst volunteering at the same time. The level of commitment has been extremely high and consistent throughout. He has been team manager, club secretary, is a level 3 field judge and referee, judges most weekends from April to September all over the region. His commitment to athletics has been recognised by Yate and District's neighbour club Bristol & West who have given Tony (and his wife Pat) honorary membership, whilst not even being club members, such is their commitment to our sport. Tony and Pat also run our tuck shop 2 nights a week (was 3 but they need a rest now).

At home matches he is first at the track, putting out the hurdles, filling the steeplechase water, getting equipment out etc. This is something he has done by himself for years, until recently, as the club was only run by a handful of committee members. 18 months ago, Yate & District AC took over the running of the sports complex, so once again Tony was at the forefront of the volunteering, deciding to litter pick the whole 13-acre site once a week and then starting to keep the hedges cut back after years of neglect.

He loves athletics, and his club, and is one of those people that just quietly goes about the work that needs doing without fuss or reward and he deserves recognition.

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