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40 years carrying athletics baton

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By WORDS: Bryan Armstrong - PHOTO: Steve Matthew
Sport
40 years carrying athletics baton

A CLUB, which established athletics in Annandale and Eskdale as a mainstream sport for all ages, is celebrating its 40th birthday.

And to mark the milestone Annan and District Athletics Club (ADAC) staged a Family Fun Day at their main base, Everholm Park running track.

The club was founded in 1976 by a group of largely former fell walking enthusiasts, whose interest had evolved into hill running and general athletics.

Among them was Len Prater, a work-study manager at Cochran Boilers, whose professional background perhaps explained his passion to constantly improve on his target times during races.

VETERAN . . . founder member Len Prater in action

Suspecting there were others in the area who shared the interest, Len and friends Bob Barr and Geoff Anderson placed an advert in the Annandale Observer for a meeting to gauge demand.

After a meeting in the Firth Hotel, they were joined by other like-minded enthusiasts such as Lenny Clark and Roddy O’Hara.

The idea proved popular and ADAC was officially launched at Chapelcross Social Club.

Later, at Annan Academy, the founders were amazed to discover around 250 youngsters had turned up at their first training session.

The club has never looked back.

Current secretary Mhairi Pringle of Ecclefechan explained that like many officials she got the bug while bringing her three young daughters — now grown-up — to the club for training.

She said: “I became just as interested myself and have since gone on to gain my coaching certificates to level two.

“I thoroughly enjoy the club. They are a cracking group of people involved. It’s a very friendly little club with quite a social network built up around it as a result.”

Mhairi explained that membership levels had reflected the troughs and peaks of the sport nationally with the current membership of around 130 split evenly between juniors and seniors.

adac 40th vb
FLASHBACK . . . Roddy O’Hara, left, and Rob Carey, two early stars of the club in action

They were drawn from across Annandale and Eskdale with a few from south of the border in north Cumbria.

Mhairi said: “For many years the club completed in the Scottish and North Western Track League but withdrew about the time of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the area in 2001.”

In that league, which included the top clubs in the north of the UK, the relatively small Annan club worked its way through the four divisions peaking as runner-up in the first division, second only to the great Edinburgh Southern Harriers.

They also performed well over many years in the former Solway Athletics League.

Explained Mhairi: “Since leaving the leagues, the club has been successful competing in open-graded races in the west district and nationally.

“We are also part of the Cumbria Athletics League, which has a strong focus on children, and we gained an amazing three trophies and 46 individual medals this season.”

She added that the range of interests in the club was as wide as ever including track, hill running, road running and triathalons.

The number of people who have contributed to the club over the last four decades was too great to name them all.

During the late 1980s athletics star Steve Ovett was an active member and is now an honorary life member.

Ovett
ACTIVE MEMBER . . .  Olympian Steve Ovett running in ADAC colours

The 800 metres gold medalist at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, who also set world records for 1500 metres and the mile, had moved to Kinmount House, west of Annan, with his former wife Rachel.

Another well-known ADAC member for a period while living in the Lockerbie area was Steve Binns, a former British long-distance runner, who competed in the 1988 Olympics.

At Saturday’s Fun Day, nine-year-old Piper Nicole Ritchie, an all-round athlete, played for the crowd.

Former captain Len Prater, now 82 and an honorary life member, was invited to cut a special birthday cake (pictured above during ceremony with officials and junior members of the club).

In an emotional address, he praised everyone who helped make the club such a success down the years, acknowledging the efforts of Mhairi and her colleagues in carrying the baton forward in such a positive way.

He added: “A lot of people have worked very hard.”

A programme of fun-packed sports followed featuring such events as space hopper racing and sack races.

 

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