The room was packed with close to two hundred and fity people, the lights were dimmed, the ballons were on the table – popping under heat – as the 2022/23 Annual Celebration got under way last night – Friday December 1st at the Mill Hill Working Men’s Club. What a way to start as Chairwoman of Blackburn Harriers – Caerwen Butler – welcomed everyone to the event, speaking about the Awards that were being presented to the athletes on the night for their performances in Track & Field, Cross Country, Road & Fell over the previous year. Food would be served after the Awards and then the Raffle with some fabulous prizes would be followed by the Disco.

The President of Blackburn Harriers – George Woodburn – who has now been in the Club longer than anyone else, then spoke about the need to recognise and reward with Life Memberships, some of our members who had not only been in the Club as members for most of their life but had in fact made huge contributions to the Harriers for up to 50 years. One by one, they were called up to be presented with framed certificates highlighting their Life Membership and the contributions to the Club over many years. They were Peter Banks, Alison Hulme, Linda Forrest, Mike Blacklidge, Mick Hitchon, Ben Fish, Evan Cook, Tony Greenwood, Bob Shorrock and Mike Hazlewood. Thank you to each and everyone of you for the invaluable contibution you have made and are still making to the continuing success of our Club.

The Award of Trophies to athletes for their performances over the year began with an interview of our Guest Presenter – Olympian Jess Warner-Judd by Committee member George Davies. Jess is in fact the fourth athlete in the history of Blackburn Harriers to have competed at the Olympics alongside Samantha Murray at 2012 winning a Silver Medal in the Modern Pentathlon, Holly Bradshaw 2012, 2016 and 2021 winning a Bronze Medal in the Pole Vault in 2021 and Sophie Hitchon 2012 and 2016 at which she won a Bronze medal in the Hammer. What a privilige and honour to have known all of these fabulous athletes who all wore the Blue & White of the Harriers and to be stood on the stage speaking to Jess.

Starting as a 10yr old Jess has worked so hard in her career which has been remarkable in what she has achieved. Her range has been quite exceptional posting PB’s of 1.59.77 (800m); 4.03.73 (1500m); 4.28.59 (1 Mile); 8.43.59 (3000m); 14.51.53 (5000m); 30.35.93 (10000m); 31.06 (10k) and 67.19 (Half Marathon). Jess finished the the 2023 season 2nd for 5000m, 2nd for 10000m and 3rd for the Half-Marathon in the British Rankings, won the 5000m and 10000m British Championships and was in the top 8 at the World Championships 10000m in Budapest this August – and amongst all of that she still managed to turn out for the Club in the Northern 6-Stage to help the team to their first ever win in April at Redcar. This is one of her remarkable attributes as she always turns out for the Club whenever she can. As the interview unfolded and Jess talked about her career, sharing her thoughts on her own journey, talking about the need to enjoy your athletics and telling us about some of her highlights, the audience continued applauding as they all took her to their hearts. Modest and humble about her achievments as always, honest and courageous, the short interview ended with resounding applause and was richly deserved. Personally I would have loved it to continue. When she was speaking you could hear a pin drop, such is her ability to engage so openly and honestly with the audience.

Presenting Jess with flowers

Such a lot was said about all the Awards and the performances of the athletes that it is impossible to list that all here, however, these are a list of all of the winners in their various categories. Unfortunately the Club ‘camerman’ didn’t do that well with all of the photos so some missing.

Cross Country & Fell > U13/15G Agatha Taylor —– U13/15B Oliver Gill —– U17/20W Isabel Holt —– U17/U20M Matt Ramsden —– Senior Man Josh Holgate —– Vets Ben Fish

Road >  Senior W Eleesha Charnley —– Senior Man Matt Ramsden —– Vets Ben Fish

Indor athletics > U15/U17W Millie Schofield —– U15/U17M Charlie Unsworth —– Senior W Abigail Stratton —– Senior M George Whittaker

Sportshall  > U11G Winner Ava Shannon —– U11G Runner UP Anvitha Reddy —– U11B  Winner Zaki Haq —– U11B Runner-UP  Reggie Johnson

Endurance > U13/U15G Agatha Taylor —– U13/U15B Jack Baranowski —– U17/U20W Abigail Stratton —– U17/U20M Dexta Thompson —– Senior W  Maddie Elliott —– Senior M Dominic Walton

Sprints > U13/U15G  Caris Peter-Thomas —– U13/U15B Charlie Clanford —– U17/20W Millie Schofield —– Charlie Unsworth —– Senior W Amy Wiggans —– Senior M Brandon Zimyemba

Jumps > U13/U15G Tamzin Osborne —– U13/U15B Abdolih Shriha —– U17/U20W Imogen Robinson —– U17/U20M Harvey Holden

Throws >  U13/U15G Dana Juma —– U13/U15B Harry Pilkington —– SeniorM John iLunga —– U17/U20M Oliver Palk —– Senior W Charlotte Williams —– Senior M Anthony Kent

Hurdles >  U13/U15/U17G Alisha Lehner —– U13/U15/U17B George Camara —– U20/SenW Kiera Booth —— U20/Senior M Codie Dewhurst

Track & Field Winners > Senior W Sarah Henton —– Senior M Tony Balko

Multi-Eventer of the Year > George Whittaker

Team of the Year > Women’s Northern 6-Stage Winners – Eleesha Charnley; Katie Buckingham; Amy Davies; Jess Warner-Judd; Abigail Stratton; Ellen Sagar-Hesketh

Most Improved Athlete – (Chosen by Coaches & Team Managers)

U13/U15/U17G – Freya Neild – knocking 16 seconds off her 800m time, 54 seconds off her 1500m time,

U13/U15/U17B – Oliver Palk – cutting 1.2 seconds off his 200m, 4.5 seconds off his 400m and setting new PB’s in 700g and 800g Javelin by 8.5m.

U20/Senior/Vet W –  Amy Davies – 15 seconds off her 800m and 29 seconds off her 1500m times.

U20/Senior/Vet M – George Whittaker – new PB’s in Shot by 2m, 4m in Discus, 3.80m in Pole Vault, cutting 0.7 off his 200m and a 700 point imporovement in his Decathlon

Endeavour Award > Samuel Mutombo and Codie Dewhurst

Best Young Athlete of the Year > Junior (U13/U15/U17G) – Caris Peter-Thomas – Double Northern Championships Winner and broke all Club Records —– Junior (U13/U15/U17B) – Jack Baranowski – Number one in British Rankings for U13 800m, 1200m and 1500m

Best Senior Athlete Performance of the Year > Senior W – Abigail Stratton – Gained GB Vest – New PB’s for 400m (57.2), 800m (2.07.03). 1500m (4.20.32) —– Senior M – Daniel Bebbington – Winning The 6th Monumnet Mile Classic in 4.00.84 and new PB’s in 3000m (8.06.88), 5000m (14.09.84),

ACE Award for overall outstanding contribution > Lindsay Davies

Jess & Caris Peter-Thomas

Jess & Jenny McAndrew picking up her daughter Abigail Stratton’s Trophy

Jess & Jack Baranowski

Jess & Freya Neild

Jess & Alisha Lehner – Hurdles Coach Rob Gillies – Codie Dewhurst

Jess and Brandon Zinyemba

Jess & Dana Juma and Oliver Palk

Jess & Oliver Palk

Team of the Year L-R Jenny McAndrew (for Abigail Stratton) – Ellen Sagar-HeskethJess Warner-Judd – Lindsay Davies (for Amy Davies) – Eleesha Charnley.

John iLunga & Jess

Jess & George Whittaker

Tony Balko & Jess

Anthony Kent – Ann-Marie Williams (Picking up Charlie Williams Award) & Jess

Codie Dewhurst and Samuel Mutombo with Jess

Jess & George Whittaker

Chris Davies (picking up daughter Amy Davies’s Award with Jess

Jess with Ava Shannon (this photo from Ava’s parents)

As many of the youngsters bopped along in the Celebration Evening Disco, others were approaching the Club President George Woodburn to tell him how fabulous they thought the evening had gone. Some couldn’t believe the size of it and the numbers, others were impressed with how it was all layed out and presented. Some even said that they were unaware of the size of the Club and what it was involved in, saying that they had no idea at all that this was the reality of the Harriers. That is sometimes the case. Athletes and parents sometimes only get chance to see their own group in their own discipline and don’t see all the other discipline groups, both on track and field and events such as cross country, road and fell racing. Celebration Evenings like ours give an opportunity for all members of the Club, whoever they are, be it athlete, Coach, Official, volunteer – the evening provides an opportunity to meet others, to socialise to become part of the family that is known as Blackburn Harriers. It gives everyone in the Club – Award Winner or not – the opportunity to come and celebrate the performances, the victories of individuals and teams, and the development of all parts of the Harriers. Eat, drink and be merry and then if you already don’t, think about what you can do to help the Club.