It was an evening to applaud the achievements of the sporting stars of north Northumberland.
Last Thursday (February 21), Alnwick and District Sports Council held its annual awards ceremony at Duchess’s Community High School, the usual venue at the Playhouse being unavailable due to the refurbishment.
Stars and stalwarts of the area’s sporting scene were rewarded for their efforts and excellence with trophies in 13 categories. Guest of honour was Aly Dixon, now retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games marathon runner, who gave an inspirational talk about ups and downs of her running career.
There was also a fasinating interview with Newcastle Falcons player Tom Penny, a former member of Alnwick Rugby Club. It was conducted by Andrew Hodgson, of Sportsworld Alnwick.
The evening culminated in the presentation of the Northumberland Gazette Sports Personality of the Year award, which was won in a reader vote by downhill skier Amy Stokoe.
The ceremony’s comperes were Palesa Thompson and James Davies, both students at the high school.
Bill Batey, chairman of Alnwick and District Sports Council, said: “The diversity of sports at this year’s awards has been incredible.”
He thanked the event sponsors, including main sponsor Specsavers of Alnwick, the Gazette for its coverage, the high school for use of its facilities and the staff of Active Northumberland and the volunteers on the Sports Council.
Grant Welsh, director of Specsavers in Alnwick, said: “The Alnwick and District Sports Awards recognises the hard work and dedication of our local sporting stars and we were proud to return as the main event sponsor this year. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners.”
JUNIOR FEMALE AWARD WINNER: Holly Hardy
Lesbury’s Holly is one of Northumberland’s leading junior female golfers and a name to remember. In 2018, playing at the Bamburgh and Alnmouth Village clubs she has won countless club cups and medals and aged just 15, became the youngest player ever to win the Ladies Bamburgh Club Championship. On the regional stage, Holly has excelled, and she won the most improved under 16 player award and she also won the northern region English Schools Championship qualifier. Playing in the English Golf national finals at Lyme Regis, Holly finished fifth in the Abraham Cup with a score of 2 under par and in the English Girls under 16 championships she finished 30th out of 120 top competitors from all across Europe. Holly also found time to play for the Northumberland County Ladies Team, playing seven matches against other northern region counties.
Other nominees: Rachel Armstrong (weightlifting); Millie Breese (athletics); Harriet Robson (cricket). Category sponsor: Lilburn’s Restaurant, Alnwick.
JUNIOR MALE AWARD WINNER: Toby Cooke
Duchess High School pupil, Toby is one of the rising stars of British freestyle kitesurfing. After his 2017 success in the junior category, he decided that despite being young enough to remain in the juniors, he wanted to step up and compete in the Junior Pro category. This was a big leap as most of the competitors are much bigger and stronger. The British Championships are decided over four events in different locations, which were Skegness, Hayling Island, Westward Ho and Ramsgate. The Westwood Ho event did not produce a result due to a lack of wind, but Toby managed to win two of the other events and was placed second in the third. This meant that at the age of 15 he had become the Under 18 kitesurfing freestyle British champion. Toby, has shown immense commitment and dedication and has an interesting nickname of Lord Tetley.
Other nominees: Joe Threlfell (football); Fred Williams (climbing). Category sponsor: The Duke of Northumberland.
JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD JOINT WINNERS: Fred Williams and Rachel Armstrong
JOINT WINNER: Fred Williams
Over the last two years, 11-year-old Fred has progressed from being a fun climber to a competition climber competing at a national level. In 2018, he was consistently placed in the top five in national competitions which qualified him to attend the GB National Development Squad selection days. These selection days involved eight boys competing for six places and Fred was by far the smallest. He trained hard for the event, particularly on his endurance and after an exhausting competition he achieved a fantastic 4th place overall and a well-deserved place in the 2019 GB Development Squad. This will involve travelling to coaching sessions across the UK and a busy year or competitions in this country and in Europe.
JOINT WINNER: Rachel Armstrong
Rachel, 17, from Christon Bank, only took up weightlifting in 2018. She had only been lifting for four weeks before she was entered into her first competition where she narrowly missed out on qualifying for the British Championships. Six weeks later, she also travelled to Scotland to take part in the Scottish junior championship where she took 1st place in the 69kg weight class and qualified for the British championships. Two months later, at the British Championships, she just missed out on a podium spot and took 4th position in her category. Much is expected of Rachel in her new sport in 2019.
Other nominee: Joe Threlfell (football). Category sponsor: Rotary Club of Alnwick
JUNIOR TEAM AWARD WINNER: Barndale School Boccia Team
Boccia is a precision ball sport, similar to bowls and is contested by athletes with disabilities. Barndale School has a tradition of turning out top teams and 2018 was no exception. Their outstanding 2018 youngsters aged between seven and 16 trained hard twice a week in preparation for the Tyne and Wear Regional Lord Taverners Games at Gateshead. Their hard work paid off when they defeated the 6 other teams to return to Alnwick with the gold medal. Well done to Ellen, Ryan and Bobbie. For good measure, Ellen and Ryan were also in the team that reached the regional Table Top cricket competition finals.
Other nominees: Alnwick Harriers Cross Country U13 Girls; Amble East End U7, who received a special commendation. Category sponsor: Rotary Club of Amble
MOST IMPROVED SPORTS PERSON AWARD WINNER: Millie Breese
A very deserving athlete, who participates in a number of sports. In 2018, her performances really did improve in all her disciplines and for example she knocked 52 seconds off her best Park Run time and is now at the age of 15, only one of three Alnwick Harriers to run under 20 minutes in the history of the Druridge Bay parkrun. She was unfortunately away on holiday, but was presented with her trophy the previous week.
Category sponsor: Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNER: Stephen Patterson
Stephen is very much the heart and soul of Alnwick Town Football Club and he is involved with the club in some way, at least six days a week. His contribution in 2018 cannot be underestimated. As head coach of the junior section of the club Stephen has helped the managers of all the teams on the training pitch to ensure coaching standards continue to improve. He has developed coaching strategies and growth plans helping to secure the sustainability of the club for years to come. All of this has been achieved on the back of a successful UEFA B qualification. Stephen also finds time to help the Alnwick Town Development Squad which bridges the gap between junior football and the club’s first team.
Other nominees: Andrew Bell (Alnwick Rugby Club); Angus Robson (Alnmouth & Lesbury Cricket Club). Category sponsor: The Cookie Jar, Alnwick
SENIOR FEMALE AWARD WINNER: Izzy Baker-Cresswell
Izzy excels at Polocrosse which is a fantastic sport played on horseback over a field roughly the same size as a rugby pitch. After a successful 2017, Izzy started the 2018 season by being named Best Player at her first tournament; she was also a member of the Scottish Team and was selected for the U25 UK Pony Club team to play in the Chairman’s Challenge and Test Series against Australia over two weekends. In the Chairman’s Challenge Cup, she was the team captain for the Greys 4x4 team which lost in the final, but in the test series she helped secure a convincingly series win over Australia. Izzy is aiming to be selected again for the Scottish team as well as making the top team for her club at the 2019 Nationals.
Other nominees: Denise Drummond (triathlon); Amy Gibson (weightlifting). Category sponsor: Wooler Wheel
SENIOR MALE AWARD WINNER: Peter Robinson
Early last year, Peter from Alnwick, was one of four rowers, dubbed The Four Oarsmen, who smashed the world record for rowing the Atlantic. They completed the 3,000-mile crossing between La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean, in 29 days and 15 hours. Despite none of them being professional athletes, they comfortably beat the previous record of 35 days set in 2017, and won the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, known as the world’s toughest row. They battled sea sickness, 40ft waves, hallucinations and chronic fatigue, but had their spirits lifted through a chance encounter with a minke whale and a calf, which swam underneath their 26ft fibreglass vessel in the middle of the ocean. In the process of setting the world record, they also raised more than £430,000 for charities MIND and Spinal Research.
Other nominees: Steve Carragher (triathlon); Adam White (kickboxer). Category sponsor: Amble Town Council
SENIOR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNER: Adam White
Adam started the Hybrid Kickboxing Club in Amble some two years ago. He is a Level 2 coach qualified through the British and Chinese Council of Martial Arts and he is part of the World Kickboxing Organisation. Adam organises club training for youngsters aged nine and above in classes of 12 to 18 people, two nights a week. As well as running the club in his spare time, Adam is also a champion in his weight class. In 2018, at the World Kickboxing Organisation English Championship, he won both the kickboxing and sport boxing gold medals, being a double gold medallist was a feat he then repeated at the Five Nations Championships. On the World Championship stage, Adam achieved four silver medals in 2018. Adam says he started kickboxing to increase his fitness but for him it’s an obsession.
Other nominees: Andy Stephenson (running); Andrew Wilde (triathlon). Category sponsor: McDonalds
SENIOR TEAM OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNER: Alnwick Rugby Club, First Team
Having won the County Cup in 2017 and finished 4th in the league, Alnwick Rugby Club First team went into the 2017/18 season with high expectations. This came to fruition when then won the league and were promoted into the Northern Premier League, the highest league in which the club has played in its history. The North East 1 title was secured with a 34-10 victory against local rivals Morpeth on the last day of the season, which meant they finished 5 points in front of Driffield. The league success was a great credit to the players, coaches and backroom staff and in particular to senior coaches James Hamilton and Peter Moralee.
Other nominees: Alnmouth and Lesbury Cricket Club U19s; Alnwick Town Ladies FC; Alnwick Triathlon Club Veteran Mixed Relay Team; Amble East End Walking Football Team. Category sponsor: Tustain Motors.
COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNER: Tracey Sample
Amble’s Tracey Sample has a very impressive CV, and she is involved coaching in four different Alnwick & District clubs which she has done for a number of years. She has been nominated for this award by two different clubs. Tracey is the head coach at the Alnwick Tri Club, does strength and conditioning training at the Harriers and is a Lifesavers Coach at the Swimming Club and Dolphins.In triathlon, her name is synonymous with the sport in the North East. She coaches the Triathlon Regional Development Squad and also encourages lots of beginners to take up the sport. Despite spending a great amount of time coaching, she still finds time to compete and her 2018 successes include winning a national gold medal as part of the club team relay and qualifying for the European championships in aquathlon, duathlon, triathlon and aquabike.
Other nominees: Gareth Breese (Alnwick Harriers); John Davidson (Alnwick Rugby U10s; James Hamilton and Pete Moralee (Alnwick Rugby First Team); John Rutherford (Amble East End Junior FC). Category sponsor: Greaves Grindle.
SERVICES TO SPORT AWARD WINNER: Cyril Cox
In August, after 50 years involvement, Cyril Cox stepped down from his position as first team secretary of Alnwick Town Football Club. Cyril joined the club in 1967 and during his spell, he held a number of positions. In particular, he was one of the new committee members that are credited with saving the club from extinction some 10 years ago. His knowledge and previous experience was a key factor in helping the club to stabilise, and also obtain various grants over recent years to help the club progress off the pitch. In 2018, his amazing 50 years’ service was recognised by the Football Association, the Northumberland FA and the Northern Alliance League. Alnwick Town have said they have been unbelievably fortunate to have had Cyril as a club volunteer. After picking up his award, Cyril dedicated it to his wife and everyone at Alnwick Town during his time there.
Other nominees: David Brewis (Alnwick Rugby Club); Jack Dargue (Warkworth Cricket Club. Category sponsor: Arcinova
CLUB OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNER: Rothbury Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling Club
Rothbury Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling Club has achieved a great deal in 2018. It was the most successful year in their history. It is the first time in the history of their sport that one club has won all the boys youth world championships in one year. Well done to Max Bates, Gus Singer, Matthew Lamont and Zac Singleton. The club also won its Sports Club Championship in November, which covered boys’, men’s and ladies’ classes. They have also recently enjoyed European championship success in Britany. Much of their success must go down to their two dedicated coaches, Darren Whitfield and Jason Davidson. Some fashionable and popular sports are often in the media spotlight which makes it difficult for minority sports to attract participants, get publicity and develop a thriving and successful club. This club certainly bucks the trend.
Other nominees: Alnwick Rugby Club; Alnwick Tri Club; Amble East End Football Club. Category sponsor: Specsavers of Alnwick.