Athletics NI Celebrate Commonwealth Games Success at Annual Awards
09 October 2018
On the 28th September 2018, Athletics Northern Ireland hosted their Commonwealth Games Celebrations in conjunction with their Annual Awards.
Taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Belfast, the evening honoured Northern Ireland’s 2018 Commonwealth Games athletes, 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games athletes, and their coaches after what has been an incredible two years for athletics. At the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast, Australia), Northern Irish athletes achieved an outstanding five top eight positions, one of which was a fantastic bronze medal from Leon Reid in the 200m. This was the first Athletics Medal since 1990 and the second most successful games ever for Northern Ireland Athletes.
Preparations for the Commonwealth Games in April began many months in advance and Athletics NI recognised the importance of a strong dynamic team from the outset. Speaking on the night Director Jackie Newton congratulated and thanked athletes, coaches, staff and service providers explaining that no stone was left unturned as everyone worked together to achieve the vision of having athletes arrive at the games in their best possible shape. Commonwealth Games athletes and their coaches were presented with a memento of the Games from Sport NI Chairman George Lucas and guests had the opportunity to hear more about the Games as Olympic High Jump Coach Fuzz Caan interviewed Commonwealth Games Athletics Team Captain Ciara Mageean, Marathon 4th place finisher Kevin Seaward and World Junior Silver Medallist Sommer Lecky.
The last two years has also proven to be a record-breaking period for Northern Ireland Athletes with five individual senior records broken and one team record (4x 100m); along with five junior records in 2018, and a further nine in 2017. The Athletics NI 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games Team was also the most successful ever for Northern Ireland with two Gold Medals (Aaron Sexton-200m & Sommer Lecky-High Jump) as well as two further top 10 positions.
Coach development lead Laura Kerr explained; “Athletics Northern Ireland are tremendously proud of the performances our Senior and Youth Athletes have produced in the past 12 months and we recognise the valuable contribution of coaches in preparation and planning. Athletics in Northern Ireland is currently thriving and we believe our current athletes and coaches play a valuable role in inspiring the nation.” With over one hundred athletes and coaches attending on the evening Athletics NI were delighted to present athletes and coaches with trophies and certificates recognising their record-breaking performances and selections for major championships.
Performance Coaching Awards were awarded to James Hillier (Performance Coach of the Year), Niall Wilkinson (Junior Performance Coach of the Year), Ian Neely (Senior Disability Coach of the Year) and Roger Sexton (Junior Disability Coach of the Year).
Highlights of the evening also included recognition of the often-unsung heroes of Athletics in Northern Ireland - the coaches, volunteers and officials who put in a remarkable effort throughout the year. Athletics NI reached out to parents, athletes, clubs and community groups prior to the awards night to ensure those that help the many through their love for the sport, were recognised for their valuable contribution to Athletics. The volunteer of the year award was presented to James Vallely who has taken on the role of race organiser for the Armagh International Road Race that has become one of the best road races in the world. The official of the year award went to Tom Thompson who regularly makes a 200-mile round trip from his home in Donegal to attend competitions, whilst Kurtis Scott won the young official of the year award. Kurtis has been officiating for seven years, and is the youngest official in Northern Ireland to achieve the UK Athletics Level 4 Field Official qualification.
Athletics in NI is thriving and as we aim to transition many of our talented junior athletes to successful senior careers the future certainly looks bright for Athletics in Northern Ireland. Director of Athletics Jackie Newton has stated the importance of coaches, NGB staff and supporting service providers continuing to work collaboratively, aspiring to excellence in everything we do and embracing the support on offer to assist athletes in their preparations for major championships.
Photographs from the evening can be viewed in our Awards Gallery