History of School Athletics in Chester le Street
The Chester-le-Street Athletics' Association was responsible for secondary school athletics, although primary teachers were involved in the organising of events, until a meeting on 12th May 1965. At this meeting, it was agreed to hold a primary schools' athletics meeting on Wednesday 7th July 1965. The age group concerned were 4th Year (Year 6) boys and girls and 3rd Year (year 5) boys and girls. Decided that the following events would be organised:
The events have changed little over the years apart from the high jump, which was deemed to be a health and safety hazard for the competitors
The first two meetings certainly had their problems. Atrocious weather affected the first meeting and, according to the annual meeting on 16th November 1966, the meeting was marred by rain once again which caused the meeting to be postponed until the following Monday. This was followed by a mix up with the public address system delivery which totally spoiled the meeting.
The first meeting to be held at Ouston Junior School was in 1968. The minutes of the meeting reported that all the arrangements were carried out by Ouston headteacher, Mr N Dickinson, ably supported by his staff. The secretary's report said
"I have pleasure in saying that these arrangements were excellent. The enthusiasm of the pupils and staff were sufficient to ensure success. An enormous amount of work had been put in by the staff of the school, work done in their own time, to make tiers in cement along the front of the track to ensure good seating positions. I am sure that, with the permission of Mr Dickinson, this will be the future venue of the primary schools' meeting"
In the 40 years since, Ouston Junior School has been the main venue for the meeting. For various reasons, Park View Community College, Roseberry Sports College and Esh Winning Primary School have been used as venues but there is no doubt that Ouston School is synonymous with the annual athletics' meeting.
The AGM of the full association on 22nd November 1973 decided that a Chester-le-Street Primary Schools Athletics Association be formed because the senior schools in the present association would soon be leaving to merge with surrounding larger associations. This was proposed by Mr Neal Dickinson and seconded by Mr J Meek.
These clips taken from the early AGM minutes show the interesting and changing face of school sport over the years:
Cestria: District Sports Winners: 1991
Pelton Roseberry Year 6 District Sports winners: 1976
Kibblesworth: District Sports Year 5 Boys Winners: 1968 - a magnificent achievement for one of the smallest schools in the association
The success of the district sports over many years has been down to the enthusiasm of the teachers to coach and encourage children to take part in athletics' activities
In addition, volunteering to help with judging is also essential - without it, the sports could not be staged in the professional manner it has done for so many years
Judging the ball throwing
Presenting medals to the top three performers in each event
Presenting trophies to the winning schools in ten categories
Ouston Junior School
We should never forget to mention the recorder's tent which has been erected in the same position for 40 years. Out of the 50 plus annual district sports, over 40 were held at Ouston Junior School. Ouston was an excellent venue, with its large field big enough to accommodate an 8-lane circular track with sufficient room for two long jump pits and a throwing area. One big advantage was the proximity of the crowd to the action, with most standing on the concrete terracing laid by headteacher Mr Neal Dickinson, deputy head, Mr Jack Thornback and teacher, Mr Barry Colwell back in the 1960's
One downside to the closeness of the crowd was the number of times when judges made a mistake in deciding who progressed to the final or, in the final, who broke the tape first. Predictably enough, the complainant was the parent of the athlete who had just missed out! Of course, there was no follow up to the complaint!
The following photographs capture the excitement generated at Ouston on district sports evening - watching children straining every muscle in an attempt to be first through the tape, throwing the cricket and rounders ball huge distances (or not), urging those taking part in track events to just 'do their best' (there can only be one winner). How could we forget to mention the recorder's tent which has been erected in the same position for 40 years?
Expectingly waiting for the results outside the scorer's tent
School teams look on as the skipping race takes place
There was plenty of room on the inside of the track for ball throwing
View from the inside of the track with Ouston Junior School in the background, as crowds look on
Replacing Ouston Junior School as a venue was always going to be difficult. No primary school fields in the area are large enough to accommodate an 8-lane track. The answer was to approach Durham County Council to see if we could used the Chester-le-Street Sports Centre and this is now our new 'home' and what a great venue it is!
Clearing those hurdles with the indoor cricket club in the background
Organising relay teams - fortunately, Steve Shaw and our professional starters, Bill & Christine Courtney, have a wealth of experience
Over 300 children prepare for their event from their designated areas in the centre of the track
Proudly receiving medals 'Olympic Style', sponsored by Lloyds Bank
A crowd of 400 watch the sports with the pavilion in the background. Where else in the country would you see such a local schools' event of such magnitude?
Baton changing in the relay - the most difficult procedure in athletics
The inaugural district sports was held in June 1964 so it was only fitting that we celebrated 50 years of district sports on Wednesday June 25th 2014. We are confident that nowhere in the country will come anywhere near this achievement. Always held on an evening, starting at 5.30 and finishing at 8 pm, the fact that schoolteachers are prepared to give up an evening in a busy schedule speaks volumes on how the sports is valued in the Chester-le-Street and surrounding area
A feature of the 50th celebration was the parade of banners on the night of the district sports. Much preparation was spent on the production of the banners. A team of staff visited schools in the months preceding the sports, discussed designs for the banners with the children from each school represented and produced 19 impressive, colourful banners.
Each school marched around the all-weather track before taking their place in the centre of the track, enjoying the applause from families and friends who had assembled on the terracing. Although a time-consuming project, the production and the march past of banners made the 50th anniversary just that little bit special.
Birtley St Josephs
Chester-le-Street C of E
Chester-le-Street St Cuthberts
Durham St Margarets
Ouston St Benets
Stanley St Josephs