Athletic club marks 50 years

Members of the club in 1971
Members of the club in 1971

A sports club, which has seen some of its members go on to compete in the Olympics, celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.

Hastings Athletic Club (AC), formed in 1964, is holding a day of competitive athletic sporting events, such as relay and pole vault, at the William Parker race track in Parkstone Road to mark the occasion on August 17, from 11am.

There will be a family barbecue at the event and medals will be awarded for first, second and third place in each category.

Digger Brodrick, chairman of Hastings AC, said: “The earliest recollection of an athletics group in Hastings was in 1960 when a club called Hastings Olimpiads was formed by Frank Broom and Dave Hill around the membership of the West Hill Boys Club. This functioned until 1963 when lack of support saw the Olympiads fold and the remaining athletes joined forces with Eastbourne Athletic Club (AC). That link too was short-lived.

“In 1964 the West Hill Boys Club again set up an athletics club called Hastings AC under the leadership of Brian Griffin. The club’s first chairman was John Alexander and this group came to the William Parker School to use the newly-opened running track in the year of its opening by Olympians Robbie Brightwell and Ann Packer in 1968. This has been the home of Hastings AC until this day.”

In the 1970s Hastings AC saw the size of the club expand in all age groups with both men and women competing in many events, achieving success.

The winter of 1972/73 saw the club compete in 13 cross country and seven road races including its own ‘Boxley Trophy’ around Alexandra Park attracting top-class athletes from all over the south of England.

Winter training at this time was held on the East Hill on a Sunday morning and circuit/weight training at a church hall in Ore with occasional specialist training at the Eastbourne track. The summer training once again started at South Saxons Playing Fields but later in the summer agreement was reached for the club to train at the William Parker track on Thursday evenings.

The summer of 1973 saw the club compete at 21 track and field meetings covering four counties and winning three senior men’s trophies.

The following year, 1974, saw the number of track and field meetings jump to 34 and a greater club membership saw more success in all sections. The club was also boosted by the addition of athletes from Bexhill AC. Hastings AC finished 12th (of 25 teams) in the Southern Men’s League. The club also welcomed Bob Harvey as middle distance coach, athlete and administrator.

The winter of 1976/77 saw a team from the club compete in the Sussex, Southern and National Cross Country Championships. For the summer Paul Martin took over as men’s team manager and the club missed promotion in the Southern League by just one place. The club championships were held at the William Parker Stadium for the first time in 1978.

Digger added: “The town and this club have found many athletes of county and international standard since those days, some like Sean Baldock have gone on to be Olympians in their own right, competing at both the Sydney and then the Athens games of 2000 and 2004 respectively with the GB running squad.

“In 1997 the running track at the William Parker was upgraded to an all-weather surface with money from the first ever lottery grant made by Sport England.

“This has helped the current crop of athletes to achieve their potential, and in 2012 the club had three current international athletes all representing Hastings AC at local and national meetings.

“Local girl Grace Baker was selected for the GB team to run in the Cross Country events in Malta and Scotland that year. Also in 2012 Louise James, aged just 15, was selected for the first ever Junior Olympic Games which was held in Singapore. She came third in the Hammer event.

“Last year Hastings girl Elise Lovell won her first England Vest to compete at the Heptathlon. Louise also represented Great Britain at the Junior World Championships in Lille, France and won the Hammer Throw event - Hastings AC’s first world champion.

“Hastings AC remains open to all ages and all abilities wishing to participate in the sport of athletics.”