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St Helens Sutton
Athletic Club

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St Helens Sutton Athletic Club

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                         Unity is Strength: 2003 in Perspective.


It doesn't seem a year since the quartet of Dave Forrester, Mike Burke, Mike Ehlen and Ben Clough shocked other clubs on Merseyside by winning the county under 13 title cross country team title, albeit on the narrowest of margins. Our delight was shared by County President Ramsay Hewson (Wallasey) who remembered the club's previous title in 1978 but not by some other clubs.

Hopes of subsequent medals in the Northern and National were dashed when injury, illness and absences cost us third place in the Northern at Heaton Park, in which Dave Forrester finished fourth (our best individual result for a decade) and the team sixth. In the National we were the first Merseyside team to finish taking a creditable eighth place in an event in which experience was lacking on the day but gained for future years.

Our seniors finished teams in all the championships, the Northern thanks to a courageous run by Julia Eccleston who, having been confined to bed all week with 'flu, insisted on taking part. The National provided a great backdrop to a weekend away with all age groups enjoying conviviality, brilliant accommodation and lessons on taking the train.

The senior ladies triumphed in the Nick Beer 10k at Llandudno, our winning team of Louise Casey, Cecilia Fitzsimons and Chris Dempsey providing the smallest winning trio in living memory, not one above 5ft tall. It wasn't their only team prize of the year, Louise Casey, ZoŽ Strong, Julia Eccleston and Pam Appleton taking second place at the Salford Women's 5. There was such a good response to the women's unofficial road race championship that it was decided to award prizes to the overall winner and the best newcomer. In May no fewer than 16 club members completed the Liverpool Women's 10k. Most have since bought club vests to celebrate their achievement.

The club's first road race not without its problems, including the timekeepers rushing off to another event with the finishing positions(!) but the organisation was superb thanks to the pre-race work and the number of people who turned up on   a sunny Sunday in March to ensure it was a success. Numbers were small but there was a near British veterans record and we gained ZoŽ Strong and Ally Young as new members as a result. Many thanks are due to aimbec ltd., for their sponsorship which met the statutory costs of closing the park.

The track and field season was outstanding. In the senior leagues the club faced tough opposition but managed to come through safely, discovering new talents along the way including the ability of our girls to spot a ringer when they see one. Officials who were sunburnt at Lancaster in June and drowned at Blackburn the following day will not forget the weekend in a hurry. The closeness of the results showed just how much team spirit was present throughout the season as our depleted number of female athletes tackled everything and topped off the afternoon with a never to be forgotten 4x400 veterans relay team. As a club we supported the move to a joint scoring League and will compete as such in 2004.

We won the Young Athletes League, scoring more points than all but two other clubs in the entire country, even topping the 600 points barrier at Crewe. The strength in depth prompted an application to join the National Junior League for 2004. Dave Forrester earned a silver medal in the Northern Under 15 3000 metres, our first this century while we collected our best haul of medals at the county championships for five years.

Caroline Morley set the ball rolling in March when she established a new club 300 metres record, the first of 100 new track and field marks set during the year. This underlying quality earned over a dozen club members places in the 2004 Northern Junior Championships.

 It was a pleasure to welcome back into membership Laura Davenport, Kate Sheffield and others we had not seen for some while, Laura quickly establishing new club records over 800 metres.

None of the Leagues were complete without a regular supply of officials, including John Irwin, George Mullineux, Joe Ehlen, Phil Thomas, Dave Morley, Sue Clague and Dennis Fulton. Roger McCall provided grade 1 expertise on several occasions. Several parents also assisted as required and others will be added during 2004 in order to meet the demands of all Leagues in general and the Young Athletes League in particular.

In April the club turned out teams together in the Northern 12 and 6 stage road relays for the first time anyone can remember, building on the ladies' participation in the six stage in 2002. The turn out was repeated in the Northern 6 and 4 stage races  in September with the ladies adding the National to their repertoire in the latter. One result of this increased participation was a threefold increase in medals at the Merseyside road relays. The titles will come later.

Administrative changes continued in light of demands on time and resources. Ray Vose, having guided the club during a major transition in 2002/3, stepped down  to concentrate on coaching. Phil Thomas stepped up as chairman to add to his overall role in coaching development and organising the club's championships participation. Julia Hayes continues to combine her roles as Club Secretary and Joint Team manager of the Cheshire League side with that of County Secretary. Dave Morley handles League administration matters in track and field and John Irwin, as ever, keeps a tight rein on the purse strings.

At the AGM held at the Bull & Dog Hotel Billy McMinnis was re-elected  President. Phil Thomas was confirmed as Chairman and Trevor Prescott (still competing in the over 70's age group) became our latest life member. The Committee was strengthened with the addition of Paul Davenport and Denis Fulton. Ben Fisher, who has taken all the club's javelin records this season, won the Athlete of the Year award with Julia Eccleston, Claire Newing and Lucy Mitchell amongst the other winners.

St Helens-Sutton A C  is more advanced towards the Clubmark standard than any other Merseyside club. The club has embraced the philosophy of making ourselves available to all members of the community and working in close contact with St Helens MBC and local teachers on the provision, recruitment and development in athletics. The Primary Schools' Sports Hall Meeting was an outstanding success. Julia Hayes, Joe Ehlen, Roseanne Hutchinson and other club leaders have been crucial to real development in this area. The increasing cooperation between the Council and the Club was seen in the liaison which took place in the staging of the St Helens Schools' Trials for the Merseyside Youth Games in April and those for the Cross Country Championships in November.

The club continues to invest in coaching with the number of qualified coaches rising to three dozen, including some who specialise in "Children in Athletics". The number of qualified officials will continue to increase as the rising demands of the Leagues make an impact (we need 10 for every Young Athletes League match). We will continue to meet these challenges because we are united in common objectives for the benefit of the athletes and the community.

We can look forward to 2004 in anticipation of further success.

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