Ballymena and Antrim Athletic Club enjoyed one of the most memorable days in the club’s illustrious history recently.
The Forum-based were named as the top athletics club in the country after winning the Northern Ireland regional final of the UK Youth Development League.
The Youth Development League is a nationwide competition set up to promote athletics and to help find and develop young athletes into the next Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis.
The competition is set up to allow each club to field an ‘A’ and ‘B’ athlete in each event. Points are awarded according to where the athletes finish in the track or field event in which they are participating. Each athlete can take part in three individual events and one relay race.
The key to doing well as a club is to make sure that all the events are participated in both the A and B categories. The difficulty is that most athletes will have to compete in events in which they would not normally do so.
In the previous weeks the BAAC coaches had been working the young athletes hard in training, but had also been instilling in them the belief that they could win this event. To do so, however, they would firstly have to turn up and then give their all, often in unfamiliar events.
From the early events it was clear that BAAC would definitely be contending for the title but, ominously, their great rivals and current YDL champions, The City of Lisburn, were right there beside them in the points standings.
To the great credit of the young athletes from BAAC, monumental doesn’t even start to describe the effort they put in.
There were middle distance runners doing sprints, throwers and sprinters competing in middle distance races and sprinters throwing shot putts and javelins, with each competitor digging deep to produce some unbelievable results. When the BAAC athletes and supporters saw that one of their own was struggling in an event you could hear the shouts of support each time they passed by.
While the announcer called out results such as “it’s another double win for BAAC”, City of Lisburn were still racking up plenty of points to keep them neck and neck with BAAC.
After the final events came to a close the atmosphere in the arena was electric. A dull hush came over the crowd as the announcer started to call out the scores, in reverse order.
When City of Lisburn were announced in second place, each and every BAAC athlete, erupted into deafening cheers of joy. It had been a long time coming but now the magnitude of the achievement was becoming clear.
In a show of great sportsmanship The City of Lisburn athletes all clapped in appreciation of the massive effort put in by BAAC.
Thanks goes out to all the coaches, athletes and parents who bond together to make events like these happen. If you are interested in finding out about BAAC, come to the Antrim Forum Track any Thursday night from 6.30pm