Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Athletics: Track stars sparkle

Athletics Northern Ireland honoured the stars of athletics in a champagne reception at the Mary Peters Track recently.

The awards, in association with UK Athletics and sponsored by Heidsieck & Co Monopole Champagne, recognise and reward clubs, volunteers, officials, coaches and partnerships for their contribution to athletics throughout the preceding 12-month period. The awards were presented by UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner.

Award winners included North Down AC who were awarded the 'Track & Field Club Award'. The club retained the All Ireland league for the second year running and increased their Team Trophy wins to seven.

North Down also competed very well in the British Athletic Leagues Cup, placing third in the UK plate event.

Off-Road Club of the year went to North Belfast Harriers who won the Irish Senior Cross Country and claimed the All-Ireland Ladies 10k road team title. They went on to represent Ireland in Russia and placed a credible seventh place.

City of Derry won the Young Athletes League for the first time, breaking the stranglehold that Lagan Valley have had on the competition, and then going on to compete at the auxiliary final in Birmingham. For this achievement they were awarded 'Junior Club of the Year'.

Tribute was made to those who work behind the scenes. John Glover has made a huge contribution to officiating in Northern Ireland. He is a member of the National Union of Track Statisticians and has developed his own statistical website (www.nistats.com). Others recognised included Phyllis Welsh and Daphne Hamill, who have both been long serving officials at most events in NI.

Elaine McCaffery, who incidentally is the new NIAF North West Development Officer, received 'Young Volunteer' for her work with Abbey AC, University of Ulster and involvement in Athletics NI initiatives. Ian Atkinson and Gillian Weir were acknowledged for their hard work and dedication to all facets of North Down AC.

Bill McCausland from Omagh Harriers is a firm believer that to become a top athlete skill and technique are of paramount importance. This belief has helped him steer Noel Collins to a European Youth Olympics silver medal and numerous domestic and national titles.

He has also encouraged the majority of his U19 squad to Ulster, Northern Ireland or Ireland titles in cross country, track and mountain running. Bill tries to ensure that athletes develop to their full potential and for this reason he was awarded 'Performance Coach of the Year'.

Coaching is obviously on the move in the west of the province as Enniskillen man Francis Shaw received the 'Services to Coaching Development' award.

North Down were on the rostrum again when 'Participation Coach' was given to Brian Smith for his work at club level.

Finally, NIAF showed their appreciation to the various partnerships that have helped throughout the year in developing and promoting the sport. Antrim Borough Council has been very supportive of the NI Track and Field Championships and the Celtic International Games. Apart from being extremely proactive in hosting and promoting these events, they support local club Ballymena & Antrim by ensuring equipment and staff are available.

A unique partnership has been formed this year with Disability Sport NI, NI Special Schools and the Dwarf Association. These groups have worked hard to provide athletes with a disability an opportunity to compete and train for athletics. There is now a pathway to access coaching and there have been a number of competitive opportunities at local level.

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