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St Helens Sutton
Athletic Club

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St Helens Sutton Athletic Club

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2002: That was the Year That Was

2002 will be remembered as the year in which St Helens-Sutton laid the foundations for its later success both on the field of competition and off it. The election of Ray Vose as Chairman, heading a committed and unified team with united objectives, strategy and development, represented a new departure for the club.

Many of the club's objectives were achieved during the first season. The men's and women's track and field teams were each promoted to higher divisions The club held its own in the Cheshire League and, in their last season as separate teams, the Boys' and Girls' each finished third in their respective Young Athletes' Leagues. From 2003 onwards it is our performances as a club which will determine our status, not that of its constituent parts.

At the outset of the year the club had 22 (18 males and 4 females) athletes taking part in the county cross country championships with Mike Burke winning a silver medal and veterans Cecilia Fitzsimons & Pam Appleton collecting silver and bronze respectively. Mike also won a county vest while Louise Casey turned down a late invitation to compete for the team which had been decimated by withdrawals. At the end of the year end the club entered 43 competitiors (25 males and 18 females) in the 2003 Merseyside event.

The club has also doubled its Cheshire entry by 100%.In 2002 Jodi Nelson earned a place in the County team and is looking to repat the performance alongside David Twigg who announced his presence in the middle of 2002 with a new club record in the under 15 Boys' 1500 metres.

During the year numbers increased in the younger age groups with the Under 13 Boys' and Girls' teams winning medals at the Merseyside County Road Relays in September. Mike Burke, Mike Ehlen, Ben Clough, Kim Bridge, Lucy Cannon and Sara McLoughlin were the silver medalists. At the same venue we fielded three senior ladies' teams with Lyn Webb, Pam Fitzsimons and Louise Casey taking silver medals.

The club remains committed to its five year programme of development based on staging an annual primary school cross country meeting in February, raising the interest of secondary schools later in the year and developing Sports Hall Athletics in conjunction with the local schools and St Helens M.B.C. Our development plan is being written to dovetail with the Council's primary objectives for the good of the town as a whole.Our schools' liaision officer, Terry Arnold, plays a vital part is maintaining the link with the local authority, schools and the next generation of athletes.

Five members took part in the Merseyside Track and Field championships. Mike Burke set the agenda for everyone by a winning the 1500 metres title and taking bronze in the 800 metres. There were bronze medals too for Jessica Cretu (150m), Steve Mayers (800m) and Louise Casey (3000m). Our other competitor, Barry Cunliffe, reached the final of the 1500 metres. Five competitors, five medals. This is the start of something big. In particular, the coaching staff were able to identify why so few members were prepared for the County event and have taken action to triple the number taking part in 2003.

Mike made the County and County Schools'cross country teams and was later joined in representative honours by Mike Ehlen who represented Merseyside Schools' at  Coventry. County cross country honours were denied to Mark Laithwaite & Tony Smith by an opaque selection system which was changed following representations. Jon Calder competed for the County team on the track and at the end of the year Gill Bacon was invited to represent the Northern Counties on cross country but was prevented from doing so because of illness.

The veteran ladies' team of Cecilia Fitzsimons, Janet Holmes and Pauline Picton took the silver medals at the Northern Veterans' cross country championships held in conjunction with the Yorkshire event. Plans are afoot  to repeat the performance in 2003. In addition, the club has been asked to stage the Northern Veterans' Track and Field Championships in May which we are hoping will produce increased participation by - and additional medals for - our members to add to Andy O'Connor's 1500 metres victory.

Under the leadership of Sue Clague, 10 new club coaches passed their Level 1 coaching examinations and most will be going on to take level 2 during 2003. Ten members took officials'examinations. To achieve its aims the club has been able to apply for funds with which we hope to increase the number, quality and grading of our coaches. In addition, we hope our actions will also assist in the upgrading of the track so we can stage matches for local schools and fulfil our wider league commitments.

The club's new status was demonstrated by the Northern Counties' decision to stage their annual cross-country championships at Sherdley Park in January 2004. Before then the club will be holding its first road race for many years at the same venue with events for men and women on 16 March 2003.

With Ray Vose elected as a County selector and Julia Hayes County Secretary the Club now has a voice in the running of athletics in Merseyside. Major changes were made in the running of Sports Hall Athletics, integrating this very important activity into the overall development plan in November. With effect from 2003 the club will actively compete in the Sports Hall Athletics League.

The club rejected calls to impose additional financial burdens on regularly attending members but showed it was receptive to change. In a radical move it reduced annual membership fees to take account of the area of social deprivation in which we are situated. Individual members took upon themselves the responsibility of paying entry fees for Championship races in order to lift the burden on club finances.

Membership has risen and plans have been put in place for future recruitment by the development of closer links with local schools and the implementation of plans for the progression of individual athletes into skill groups commensurate with their abilities and requirements. Retention has been outstanding with only two resignations from athletes, both for non-club reasons, and some memberships terminated. Pam Appleton's first task when elected membership secretary was to create a new database.

The club's commitment to progressive change was demonstrated by the adoption of a new constitution which embodied equal opportunities for all. Several new members joined the Committee including Phil Robinson and Sue Clague. They added new skills to supplement the experience of Dave Morley, Alan Geraghty. Treasurer John Irwin, Secretary Julia Hayes, Janet Holmes, Pam Appleton and Ray Vose, who has become a popular chairman

New people have come on board. In addition to the team managers' roles played    by Dave Morley, John Irwin and Phil Thomas, new managers have emerged. Danny McLoughlin, Julia Hayes, Joe Ehlen and Sue Clague took on specific managerial tasks in 2002 and will become increasing involved, with others, during 2003.

This year also saw the participation of former members of Sutton Harriers who returned to the sport after decades of absence. Lyn Webb (Vose) & Sue Clague (Woods), both members of the 1979 Girls' team which won the National cross Country title came back and competed for the club. Chris Dempsey, Merseyside Champion over 3000 metres at both walking and running, made her debut as a veteran. Sue Lowrie (Crompton) was an integral part of our track and field league team while Gill Bacon was our track and field athlete of the year. Wayne Joyce showed he had lost none of his natural talent when representing the club in the League matches while the club attracted a number of second claim members who boosted our competitive ranks.

The Website was established in June 2002 and has become an increasingly important medium of communication between the club and its membership, although face-to-face contact remains our main focus. The site stands well in comparison with those of other clubs, acting as an historical record (which will be extended, in time, to include the club's history and pre-history) and an avenue of information for all current and previous club members. Phil Thomas and Joe Ehlen have formed an excellent working partnership which sees the site updated almost on a daily basis.

No one will forget the impact that the loss of Rebecca Clague had on the club. The loss of a young life, in such tragic circumstances, put athletics and the pleasure we derive from it, into proper perspective. Sue, Peter and Stephen remain constantly in our thoughts, families remain the cornerstone of our lives and love is the real meaning of life.

2003 will see St Helens-Sutton A C progressing in all spheres of athletics and running thanks to the enthusiasm of athletes, parents and committee members alike, united in their vision of a decade of progress based on solidarity, quality performance and a policy which welcomes all who share our vision for the future of athletics in St Helens.

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