Secretary's Report to AGM 2010 

The year has had a silvery hue to it, that makes something of a change from the golden tint that we’re used to, but it shows that we’re still performing to an extremely high standard if, by our recent standards, we’ve been just off our A-game.  There are many reasons for this and now is not the time to go into them in detail, but rest assured that the club continues to strive for excellence in all we do.

We said goodbye to Charlie Henn this year, who was a former club secretary and still performing in the claret and gold shortly before his death, aged 80 – indeed, Charlie would have made up a third of a Surrey road league team in summer ‘09 had I been able to find an extra runner.  Charlie left the club a very generous legacy, and it has not taken it long for us to find a good cause for it, that of well overdue repairs to the leaking roof over the extension of the clubhouse.

We also regret to report the death of an old Belgrave stalwart Albert Frost, who passed away aged 96.  Albert was elected to membership in December 1945 and soon made his mark as a fine runner, and raced to 9th in the South of the Thames CC Championship and on a snowy Ascot racecourse in the Southern Championships played his part in helping Belgrave to win the "Odling Smee Cup" for the first club to finish twelve men.

Perhaps his finest run was in the English National Cross Country Championship of 1947.  Held at Apsley over a course almost knee-deep in snow, Albert ran in great style to finish 17th and so gain his club Honours Badge.  Belgrave placed 2nd in the team race.  Albert had a very distinguished business career.  As well as being Finance Director at ICI, he collected a CBE, was Chairman of the bank Guinness Mahon, sat on the Board of the Arts Council and had a senior board role at Marks and Spencer.

Finally, we said goodbye to Charlie McLennan who was a very loyal team man from the 1950s through to the 1970s, and was fondly remembered for his droll sense of humour.

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Here is a brief summary of some of the competition we have enjoyed in the past year.  As ever it is not possible to go into great detail, but if the finer points are what you’re after, please consult our magnificent website that has information about every single club race of note stretching back to Summer 2001.  There have actually been two Southern 6 Stage relays since our last AGM, due to the slightly later date of tonight’s meeting, and I can give their outcome as one package as the results were identical.  Silver in both in gritty displays, but a minute behind excellent Aldershot teams, with Newham in bronze on both occasions.  Newham, however, have bossed the year otherwise as they won the National 6 stage last term with a tremendous team, as we were a very hard fought 2nd in a fine race.  Newham then won the Southern 12 stage at Milton Keynes with a course record-breaking team, we were second again, and they also won the National 12 stage.

In this latter race we were a rather painful 8th – an unheard position for us in relays this last 10 years, but still of course on the face of it no great disaster.  We lost two aces Sharp and Goolab, to the Volcanic ash saga, which also meant that Steve missed his first relay since joining us in 2001.  That’s a streak of 42 races – a magnificent achievement – how sad it had to come to an end in such a surreal manner, but it just shows what it takes to stop this man, a once in a lifetime freak of nature. 

Disregarding our finishing position at Sutton Park, our performance was laudable.  Wicks and Kelly were both running injured, Speaight was unfit, Miles very unfit and Jones very, very unfit.  With several others drafted into the team who we’ve seen very little of in recent times, never has there been a more patched up band-of-brothers rallying to the cause.  It’s ok to react well in triumph, as in 2009’s dream team, but this was a special day for different reasons – Belgrave isn’t just about quality, it’s also about fighting spirit when the chips are down.  The silver tongue of Alan Mead – and the athletes’ esteem and affection for him – had a lot to do with getting a presentable team out on the course on the day.

Over the country, we defended the South of the Thames trophy in fine style, with an extremely narrow win over Kent and Herne Hill, both of whom closed in well before us.  James Kelly won the race.  We are getting ever closer to finally regaining the Surrey championships.  Our streak in that race now reads: dnf, 7th, 5th, 4th, 3rd and now 2nd, in a race won by Paskar Owor.  All eyes on January 8th then.

We were 3rd in the Surrey League as Thames and Herne Hill continue to dominate, but they’ll have had their wings slightly clipped by a restriction being made on second-claimers, and all we need is a couple more regular strong guys to fill out our team and we can compete for this title again.  In the Southern, our excellent 15 finishers from 2009 became a miserable 5 this year.  Hopefully we’ll bounce straight back to form next time round.  We were much better at the National at Leeds, where a still under-strength unit, fought tooth-and-nail for 7th in the nation.  We certainly haven’t given up on having another real charge at National gold in the coming years.  Finally the National cross-country relay at Mansfield saw us fight back to 8th after Steve Sharp was tripped at the start and managed to get trampled over by almost the entire field.  We hope Steve’s bad and bizarre luck is now at an end.

The Belles ladies had a quiet winter as the squad is going through a rebuilding phase, not to mention something of a baby boom.  But we now have two of our linchpins back in action, Zoe Vail and Louise Blizzard after their happy arrivals, but will miss out on strength of Sarah Murphy this season, who is now running for two – although whisper it gently – the team manager thinks he can get one last race out of her at the National 4-stage in a fortnight, before bump gets too big.  In the Surrey League the girls were a quiet 6th, but just a body or two more and we’d have been vying for the podium.  We are fairly certain we’ve found those bodies for this season. 

In the road relays, we completed a team at the National 4-stage (49th), and came a heart-warming 11th at the Southern 6, with an incredible assortment of talent: race walkers, triathletes, not to mention a runner commuting straight to the race from placing 8th in the Reading half-marathon.  In fact she deserves a name-check:  Samantha Amend is fast becoming the glue that holds our teams together – long may she last.  At the National 6 stage we were felled by the ash and an injury and ran out of runners, but we were in a very promising 15th at the time.  Finally, last weekend we were the 23rd best club on the day in the Southern 4 stage, a race we very rarely manage to raise a team for, and things are looking positive for an even stronger showing at the National.

Onto race-walking and team wise this has been a bad year for Belgrave, as we have had difficulty turning out enforce throughout the season.  John Hall had combined his duties as Southern President with various representations and Medals in Masters and Veterans events on the mainland and Europe with Maureen Noel backing him up. But Nationals have avoided us this year. The problem regrettably is the aging older section and lack of younger talent to be advised by anyone who has the time to advise.

The star of the show has been Alex Wright. A year ago he went to Leeds Carnegie Metropolitan University to join UK Athletics’ National Race Walking squad and, coached along the way by Ray Hall, he has transformed from “quite good” to become the country’s top walker over all distances up to 20kms.  Taking the Inter Counties, UKA and National RWA championhips in his stride and as a result has been selected for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and still only 19.  As a result of his performances he has also revised the Belgrave Club records over 3kms, 5kms, 10kms and 20kms.

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And so to the summer, where we’ve had a bittersweet time of it.  Right from the off we were behind the 8-ball in the BAL Premiership.  Sprinters, hurdlers, pole-vaulters and steeple-chasers were in desperately short supply all summer long, and that’s hundreds of points gone a begging.  So we were 7th, and it’s back to the more forgiving world of Division 1, which we bounced straight out of in 2009, and will hopefully do so again.  Paskar Owor deserves a special mention for tripling up in the last two matches and doubling up in the others.  10 races plus a relay or two – sterling stuff and a stack of points for him.

Hazel Mead managed both our Southern League and Rosenheim teams to brilliant effect.  We threatened promotion all season out of Division 3N in the Southern and in the end fell narrowly short placing a close 5th.  The Rosenheim was a great success from start to finish and not only did we win the Eastern division for men, our women also triumphed by just a single point over Serpentine.   We then went on to dominate the Final and pick up the trophy that we were disappointed not to gain last year.  Although these competitions are fairly low-key, there’s still some real quality fare on offer, and it’s clear that our athletes had a really good time, and were very proud to wave our colours.

In the UK women’s league we were relieved to narrowly avoid relegation in Division 3 and will look to come back stronger next year.  The early signs are that we should.

There was a lot of claret and gold to be found on our television screens at the UK Championships and European Trials in Birmingham.  There were wins for Dwain Chambers, Will Sharman, Phillips Idowu, Joe Ive and Goldie Sayers.

We had a frustrating time at the Montjuic Stadium in the European Championships, with Chambers being edged down to 5th in the 100m final in that blanket finish, David Gillick placing 5th in the 400m final and Will Sharman getting disqualified in the semis of the hurdles.

However, we did of course strike gold through Phillips who found the best jump of his career, 17.81m, to pleasingly defeat France’s dangerous Teddy Tamgho.  Phillips record in major Championships now reads like this:

2002 - Commonwealth silver
2006 - Commonwealth gold
2007 - European Indoor gold
2008 - World Indoor gold and Olympic Games silver
2009 - World Championship gold
2010 - European Championship gold

Just the Olympic gold medal missing from that collection then...

We are sending the following, minus Phillips who has asked to be excused, to Delhi in a few days:

Martin Dent (Australia) - marathon

Phillips Idowu (England) - triple jump

Samson Oni (England) - high jump

Matthew Richards - (Wales) - hammer throw

William Sharman (England) - 110m hurdles

Alex Wright (England) - 20km Walk

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Onto general matters and the South London Athletic Network started working in Oct 2009 with Belgrave joining five other South London clubs with a common aim of working together to improve the sport in South London. Belgrave has hosted two development days at Battersea Park and established a number of schools links resulting in Belgrave coaches working in schools. SLAN has provided financial support for this work and in addition has supported four new Belgrave coaches who are among the first to be awarded the new UKA level 2 licence. SLAN will be running new cross country competitions for young athletes this winter and plan three new track meets for young members next summer.

Looking forward, the club is well placed in the final 22 month run-up to the London Olympics.  Bill Lucas, our 1948 Olympian, is starting to field calls and camera crews to hear how it was in his day, and we hope to send several athletes to the Games.  As club secretary I am certainly starting to see increased interest in athletics and Belgrave.

We need to start being more pro-active about recruiting our younger members to help run the club, and we can’t rely on them all to be ‘muppets’ like myself who innocently put his hand up in this room six years ago to ask, “what does a ‘Club Sec’ entail”?  “You’ll learn on the job,” came the reply, quick as a flash.  My plan is to personally target and write to likely lads and lasses who I perceive as crucial to our progress these next 50 years, and tell them the future of our illustrious club is in their hands.  People, after all, love to feel wanted.  Most of them probably know who they are already; they just need a wee nudge.

Thank you,

Will Cockerell, Honorary General Secretary, Wednesday 29 September 2010