England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones, along with the local Club Support Manager Rich Ayling, headed to Wiltshire to meet the volunteers and see the activities taking place on a club night.
The club has been based at the track at South Wilts Grammar School since the early 1990s. It lies next to the Five Rivers Leisure Centre and after catching up with some of the club committee at the leisure the Chris and Rich walked across to the track with them to see the training and coaching going on.
Among those talking Chris through the various activities taking place on the track, and the other activities which take place through the week or other times of year, were the Lee Ness (Chairman), Karen Mundell (Secretary), Alan Munro (Treasurer), John Ruskin (Public Relations Officer) and Nick Gibbs, a former Chairman who continues to help ensure the quality of the club’s main facilities.
City of Salisbury Athletics & Running Club has around 455 members. Members range in age from nine to 94 with just over half of the members being in the junior age groups. As well as the activities going on the track with athletes across different age and event groups being coached there are also around 100 members who heading out for structured training sessions on the roads on a Wednesday. The club also has an inclusive approach to disability athletics with disabled athletes among the membership involved in the activities week-by-week.
The club has seen substantial growth over recent years. The QuadsKids group were in action from 6pm-7pm with the U15 to Senior Athletes arriving for their training which ran up to 8pm slightly later. There is a similar situation on the Thursday with the younger athletes meeting slightly earlier and an U13 group also in action. These young athletes section have been successful in seeing new members brought into the club, with a good number being retained as they have made their way into the older age groups.
As well as attracting new younger members Chris also heard about how the club has been bringing senior athletes into the club. A recent beginners group had attracted 35 new members with the cost of joining the beginners course taken off the cost of full club membership if they decide to join the club.
The club is involved in track and field (including QuadKids), road and cross-country competitions from local to national level. Recent successes included a third-place finish in the Southern Athletics League 3SW last year, promotion for both the Senior Men & Veteran Men’s teams to the Top Division in the Hampshire Cross Country League and promotion currently looking likely in the Hampshire Road Race League. At the time of the visit Salisbury were also joint top of the Wessex Young Athlete League and the Wessex Young Athlete Quad Kids League. Individual successes have included came from Jaymee Domoney (Coach: Dave Amey) who took silver in the England Athletics U20 Indoor 1500m. Molly Hole (Coach: Marcus Hole) is currently second on the U15 UK high jump rankings and Bea Wood (Coach: Dave Amey) is now national number one in the U15 1500m.
The club is not only involved in participating in competitions, it is also involved in the organisation and provision of events. It organises the highly regarded Salisbury 10-mile road race in April and supports the hugely successful Salisbury parkrun with many volunteers. Two of the club’s members also serve as race directors for the parkrun, and with around 500 participants each week the club takes the opportunity to market its activities to those involved.
As well as providing opportunities for its members the club also works with others from outside of the club. Deborah Bray was one of the coaches in action when Chris and Rich visited and was working with the young high jumpers. Similarly, England international Verity Ockendon (Swansea, Tony Houchin) was one of the athletes on the track training as part of the club night.
Chris commented, “The trip to see the club at Salisbury was very enjoyable. A striking aspect is that many of the volunteers involved in athletics and running there have not only a huge amount of enthusiasm and commitment to the sport, but also a very strong and diverse skill set.
“This was very much in evidence at Salisbury. It was clear when sitting and talking through various aspects of the how the club works, as well as some of the challenges they face, before training began. But then it was all-the-more clear when we headed out to see the club activities in action.
“It was fantastic to see such a range of people, drawn from the local area, enjoying the sport and being provided with the opportunities that athletics and running can offer so effectively.
“This combination of dedication and expertise displayed by the volunteers in a wide range of roles enables tremendous work to be done from the club’s Salisbury base and much further afield.”
In response, club Chairman Lee Ness added, “We were delighted to host the visit by England Athletics and to show Chris, Rich and Andy just what a vibrant and thriving club this is.
“In terms of our membership growth in the past couple of years alone we have been hugely successful. That’s a reflection not only of the outstanding results being achieved by our athletes in track and field, road and cross country but also a measure of how much team spirit and enjoyment is here to be had.
“Athletes young and old get a real buzz from being a part of the club, as do our coaches and admin colleagues. We try to be as inclusive, welcoming and encouraging as we can be - as well as highly committed - and success flows naturally from that.
“It’s great to know we have the strong support of our friends at EA as we embark on the next step of our evolution with the redevelopment of our running track and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them.”