GRASSROOTS greats celebrated in style as a town’s sporting heroes were rewarded for their efforts.
The annual Darlington Sports Winners Scheme, on Wednesday (January 29), celebrated achievement and progress in the borough’s young athletes and recognised the men and women who drive their ambition.
An audience of civic dignitaries, friends and family attended the award ceremony staged at Darlington College.
Sponsored by Vauxhall dealers Sherwoods, Darlington Borough Council, Tees Valley Sport, Master Skills Sporting Academy, Rotary International and Serco, the two hour event outlined the courage, determination and success shown by young people.
Organising committee member Brian Dobinson celebrated the nation’s sporting achievements and also paid tribute to former mayor Ron Lewis, who died recently.
He said: “Ron will always be remembered for helping us secure the Mulheim Trophy for the person most dedicated to sport, which marked our 50th year of twinning with the German town.
“This scheme is so worthwhile and I am so grateful to all our sponsors for helping to keep it going for the town’s youth.”
Chairman of Darlington College and managing director of Sherwoods Alasdair MacConachie added: “This is a really special event in Darlington’s calendar because it celebrates very special people; the youngsters who commit themselves to sport and the coaches and parents who have dedicated their lives to helping them.”
• Young Sports Winner U13 – presented by Darlington Council chief executive Ada Burns.
Longfield School student Courtney Burton, 12, took the award for her success as a young gymnast. She joined South Durham Gymnastics team at the age of seven and has been selected for the GB squad.
• Young Sports Winner 13-19 – presented by editor of The Northern Echo Peter Barron.
Longfield School pupil Ben Marksby may only be 14 but he is already British Champion and a member of the winning GB Squad.
• U13 Team/club Award – presented by Councillor Andy Scott.
Longfield School’s Year 7 football team proved so dominant in their season that several matches were cut short after putting up to 11 goals past the opposition. They represented Darlington at county level, taking the County Cup and dominating the town league.
• Team/club Award 13-19 – presented by public health principal Ken Ross.
Hummersknott Academy cross-country team have showed massive commitment to the sport in all weathers winning at local, regional and national levels.
• U19 Services to Sport Award – presented by Paul Beilby of Master Skills Sporting Academy.
Lewis Roberts, 19, received his accolade for his work with Spraire Lasses, encouraging them to train hard and enjoy their football that has led to a marked increase in their performance.
• Services to Sport 19+ – presented by Martin Jenkins of Tees Valley Sport.
Diving head coach Steve Jackson won high praise for inspiring hundreds of young people to take up the sport over the past 25 years, passing on his expertise and passion and inspiring generations of young athletes.
• Special Achievement Award – presented by vice president of Rotary Ken Wiper.
Swimmer Elizabeth Fenby was recognised for battling to find the cause of a mystery illness that struck during a training session with her father Glen, who is head coach of Darlington Swimming Club.
• Lifetime Achievement Award – presented by Councillor Lee Vasey.
Founder of Haughton Volleyball Club, Jackson Sweeting has become a legend in the town for coaching work which has seen young players represent their country over the decades.
• Mulheim Trophy – presented by Darlington mayor Charles Johnson.
PE co-ordinator for 20 years at Abbey School Sarah Murray received the accolade for supporting sport within the schools network and in the community and for playing a key role in providing opportunities outside the curriculum.