Chris Jones went along to the Bedfordshire club to find out more about their work and plans for the coming year.
Dave Brown, who is a senior coach and UKYDL team manager with the club, and other volunteers met Chris and guided him around the activities going on during the evening.
Since 2004 the club have been based at Sandy Sports Centre with their current all-weather track being opened in September 2005 by Liz Yelling, the Olympic Marathon runner and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, who is from Bedfordshire.
Dave explained the club is closely involved with the running of the facility and there are a number of refurbishments and improvements currently planned for the track. The six lane track with an eight lane straight is to be resurfaced and re-marked. There will be hurdles markings added to both straights, rather just the home straight, to enable greater flexibility in how the track is used particularly on training nights. Fittings will be added to the throws areas to make them suitable for seated throws. Work will also be done on the pole vault area.
The club dates back to 1951 when it was initially created so that the Athletic and Grass Track Cycle Racing Meeting that had been held by Biggleswade Horticultural Society since the early 1900’s could be continued. Originally the club was based at Fairfield Sports Ground, Biggleswade, moving to Stratton Upper School in around 2000 before then switching venue to its current facility.
This facility has seen the club evolving its work, particularly with young athletes. The club now has more than 300 members. A number of coaches were already starting to work with their respective groups of athletes as Chris headed out to see the activity on the track.
A ‘Little Bees’ group for under 11s run by the club was getting under way. In 2015 there were around 60 youngsters on the register for the group. This Thursday they were in action on the back straight of the track. In addition to the activity outdoors for the younger athletes the club is also involved in Sportshall Athletics through the winter.
The sprinters were beginning their session on the home straight with the endurance athletes also underway with their sessions. Among the track and field activities the club’s athletes are involved in are the Southern Athletics League, Eastern Veterans Athletic Club League, the Eastern Young Athletes League and National Junior Athletic League.
The club has seen a number of its young athletes progressing to be successful at national level. One of those training was Tom Boggon, who was English Schools triple jump bronze medallist in 2013 and is now transitioning to 400m running. Another of the club’s successful track athletes is Euan Dickson-Earle. In 2013 Euan was a World Youth Championships finalist and World Schools Champion at 110m hurdles, and World Schools bronze medallist at long jump. Last winter he was England Athletics Under 20 60m hurdles champion before going on to represent England in the Welsh International.
As the evening went on the group of road runners started to congregate. They meet up at 7pm ready to head out on to the roads for their session. One of the club’s road running members who is currently building up for the London Marathon in April is Alistair Burt MP, the Minister of State for Community and Social Care. Aside from valuing the role the club plays in his own running Alistair was also keen to talk to Chris about the value of the many volunteers who provide an invaluable service in providing sport to people in communities across England.
Biggleswade AC is involved in a range of road running activities including organising the annual Sandy 10 which this year takes place on 10 April. As well as raising funds for the club the Sandy 10 also sees Biggleswade AC working with Sue Ryder to raise money for the charity through the event.
The endurance section of the club has enjoyed recent success at the Three Counties Cross Country League with the women’s team winning the league this winter. The club is involved in the Chiltern Cross Country League too. Aside from being in action in competing the club is also active in providing vital volunteers for the cross country scene too. At the start of 2016 the club took a key role in organising the combined Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire County Cross Country Championships which were held at Shuttleworth College. This saw Biggleswade AC involved in a range of activity in the build-up as well as the setting up of the course and marshalling of the event on race day.
After training Chris was able to present AAA Awards certificates to Tristan and Cameron Rayner and club championships medals to Francesca Riley.
Chris commented, “Meeting up with people such as Dave, who has been involved with the club for 45 years, as well as people who have got involved much more recently highlights how our sport is based on the work of a range of volunteers. Between them these people fulfil a wide range of important tasks. Hearing about the work the club does in operating its own activities and responsibilities associated with their facility highlights not only the dedication but also the expertise that is needed. It was good to see the activity on the track and hear about the club’s wider work.
“The broad appeal of athletics was also highlighted by seeing everyone from youngsters in the ‘Little Bees’ group through to the local MP being enthusiastically involved in what the club is doing. It was important for me to be able to talk to people at Biggleswade about the challenges they face in the sport, what support they value and the way they are working to develop athletics in their area.”