The winner and runner-up of the first-ever Courier Sports Personality of the Year AU Award were announced on Friday. Hosted by Athletics Union Officer Joe Gubbins, the awards took place virtually on Zoom due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Courier Sports Personality of the Year is a brand-new AU award celebrating the successes of individuals within sports teams. It is awarded to an individual within a club who has driven its success through personal achievements, as well as working behind the scenes to help their club.
After being listed on the nomination shortlist for its first year, the award’s nominations were shortlisted by the Courier Sport team before being thrown back to AU clubs to vote for their runner-up and winner.
Gubbins said the following about the new addition to the AU awards, “I think the Courier SPOTY is a great way to strengthen the link between our sports clubs and student media over the coming years as it brings a focus to all student-athletes from a media perspective. I can see the award gaining even more buy-in and significance with the clubs in the future after a very successful first year.”
The runner-up of this year’s award was Chris Larkin of Newcastle Athletics and Cross Country club. Chris has been a vital asset to NUAXC with both his personal and club achievements. He was the winner of the Start Fitness Harrier League, beating 400 others in Northumberland to become the fastest in the county. His performances at national events in BUCS Cross-Country and Edinburgh Braids Cross-Country have marked him as one of the best runners in the country.
Whilst Chris has done exceptionally well personally, as a club captain he has been incredibly dedicated. He’s used his knowledge to lead training sessions with minimal funding to coach others and help to improve their performances. As well as this, Chris developed multiple initiatives such as the Park Run and performance leagues for runners to gain points based on performances, keeping a sense of healthy competition with his members as well as documenting their improvement. Additionally during the Coronavirus pandemic he created a virtual race series to make up for missed competitions and allowing competition during isolation.
Member of NUAXC and Courier Sport editor, Toby Bryant, said, “Nominating Chris for The Courier Sports Personality of the Year was an absolute non-brainer. He’s both an inspiring athlete to train alongside, and a personality who is always approachable and willing to help as Cross Country Captain.
“Newcastle University Athletics and Cross Country Club is full of individuals like that, but how Chris juggles fantastic personal achievements at national running events with being a team member is extra admirable. A very, very worthy runner-up.”
The recipient of the first-ever Courier Sports Personality AU Award was Molly Casper of Newcastle Dance Club. Molly has made a huge impact for the club this year, allowing dance to be capable of achieving as many awards as possible. After club and society sectors merged into one, Molly took the role of competition organiser, a position usually filled by two people. As part of this, she was single-handedly responsible for communicating with and hosting twelve other universities. Furthermore, she was able to overcome tricky obstacles such as sourcing a judge for the Newcastle competition last minute after one dropped out, as well as seamlessly managing a nine-hour home competition.
Molly was also crucial in preparations for the dance club’s competitions, choreographing intermediate tap by herself and coaching the beginner’s tap team. She ensured that every team dance sent to competitions was scrutinised and perfecting this, allowing the club to win a huge 21 trophies this season.
Reflecting on her experiences at the club this year Molly said, “The Dance Club has been such an amazing part of my life at uni. I have loved organising our successful competition season this year and watching our dancers win 21 trophies!
“A huge thank you to my rock and teaching partner, Georgia Forester, and the rest of committee and my lovely friends for being so supportive and amazing.
“Thank you so much to the Courier and AU for this award, it’s so lovely to be recognised for my work at dance this year!”
As well as the Courier Sports Personality, Thursday saw an array of sporting success celebrated via Zoom. Men’s Basketball’s Josh Szymanis won Individual Contribution to University Sport and Trampolining’s Leo Burgomaster-Westbrook picked up Coach of the Year, with Men’s Rugby receiving Community Club of the Year. The Courier Sport’s very own Rory Ewart also won Sports Writer of the Year.
Surf Club scooped up three awards on the evening, winning Contribution to Inclusivity and Most Improved Club of the Year, as well as President Holly Mawdsley picking up AU Club member of the year. Ultimate Frisbee also had a successful haul, the women’s firsts won Team of the Year and club President Amy Constantine was awarded Administrator of the Year. NUAXC also had a successful evening after member Chris Larkin came runner-up in the Courier Sports Personality of the Year, the club went on to win Club of the Year.
As the academic year begins to wind down in unusual circumstances, Gubbins is coming towards the end of his time as AU Officer, and has described his thoughts in the role, “Throughout my year the highlight of my job has been getting to work with the clubs day in day out. I think that sport at Newcastle is something very special and I feel massively proud to have been a part in shaping it this year.
“All credit has to go to the club members for any success that we have and particularly to the effort and dedication of our club committees to run their clubs alongside doing their degrees. I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity as AU officer and am hoping to squeeze as much out of my last month in the role as possible.”
On behalf of the Courier Sport we’d like to say a big well done to everyone who won on Friday night and a thank you to all AU Clubs this year, it’s been a pleasure to report on your successes this year. We’d also like to thank AU Officer Joe Gubbins for all of his hard work and collaboration with the Courier this year.
Featured image sources: Christopher Griffin (Ultimate Frisbee), Ben Heathcote (Athletics), Yonder Surf School, Sarah Jean (Surf), Newcastle Dance Club (Dance)
Last modified: 19th May 2020