SEDGEFIELD Harriers is officially the UK’s best athletics club, but now chairman and founder Ean Parsons wants to turn plaudits into regular on-track prizes.
Despite being only six years old, the Harriers have embarked on an awards spree this year.
Having been named the North East’s best athletics club, then England’s, on Saturday Sedgefield were named UK Athletics Club of the Year, just weeks after being chosen as England Athletics’ Development Club of the Year.
Coach Marie Walker was named North East Development Coach of the Year for 2011, and Parsons, Scott Hydon and Marie Walker have been selected for the England Athletics Local Coach Development Programme for the North East.
Sedgefield’s success is based on a junior section held up as an example to others. Of their 220 members, 150 are juniors, with 60 below the age of 11.
Now, with plans for a track of their own, they are hoping to make the next step.
“We work hard to make it fun,” Parsons explained.
“The next stage is to go from a development club to a performance club. We’ve got so many talented children between the ages of 11 and 15 we just know we can do it.
“What we’re hoping for next is a track so we can develop the club.
“We’ve got a steering committee driving for it and we’re trying to raise funds, but that’s not easy at the moment. Winning this award will do us no harm at all.
“The club’s run by volunteers, it’s very much a community-based club. It really does depend on the efforts of the volunteers. We put in a scheme in 2009-10 to get more involved and it’s been used as a beacon to other clubs.
“England Athletics saw the way we were going, and they liked what they saw. Even to win the North East award when you consider all the other clubs in the area was incredible.
“We’re absolutely over the moon to get the national award. It’s deserved for all the work that’s been done. You see a lot of positive things going on. We’ve grown the junior section particularly, which I guess was a factor in winning.”
Parsons’ ambitions were much more humble when he started the club, based at Sedgefield Community College, in 2005.
“I was always a recreational runner,” he explained. “I started in the 1980s with the Great North Run, and I’ve done 29 of them now. I always had a dream of starting a club in Sedgefield since I moved here in 1990.
“I put an advert in the local community newspaper and seven of us turned up on the first night. A few months later we started a junior section.
“I was expecting we might have 30 or 40 runners but it’s absolutely mushroomed. I didn’t know in five years we’d be coaching children in jumps, throws, sprints and endurance running.
“We’ve got 16 coaches with the juniors and all except one (head coach Hydon) have been coached through Sedgefield.
“Especially around Great North Run time you see a lot of people running around the area. It just needed somebody to start it.
“It’s almost you turn over a stone in the North East and you find an athlete.”
Anyone interested in providing practical and financial support, or simply joining the club, can get more information from www.sedgefieldharriers.com or by calling Ean Parsons on 07771 828 568.