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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Barrow, Dalton & Kirkby schools win at Cumbria school games

CHANTS of “Furness, Furness” broke out around the Sheepmount Stadium in Carlisle.

More than 100 athletes from more than 10 different schools in Furness broke out in the spontaneous show of unity at the presentation ceremony of the Cumbria School Games.

All wearing their mid-blue Furness shirts – having been able to ditch their waterproof ponchos after the morning rain relented – they were prompted into their show of support for their region by the announcement that one of their own, Burlington School, Kirkby, had been declared winners in the Year 3/4 small schools golf competition.

Ten primary school pupils, with smiles from ear to ear, made their way to the stage accompanied by headteacher Jan Bath and sports team leader Michaela Kemp to shake hands with HRH Duke of Gloucester, collect their medals and get their hands on the shining trophy.

It was a ritual repeated when St Columba’s netball team from Walney won the year 5/6 netball tournament.

And when Dowdales, Dalton, won the table tennis tournament.

These were treasured moments for all involved.

But just as important was the fun had by everyone.

There were heroes all around.

Everyone at Wednesday’s finals had already won their area competition to be there.

And behind every smiling young competitor or helper, there was an inspirational adult doing so much to spread sport around our schools in Furness, South Lakes and Copeland.

There was a deserved three cheers from the whole squad for Helen Wright, of Furness Academy, the school games organiser for Furness, who did so much to prepare for the event.

Teachers like Helen, who represents 43 primary schools, five secondary schools, and two special schools in Furness, have been handed a golden opportunity to spread the benefits and values of sport with London holding the Olympics this year.

And they’ve been given a further boost by the wonderfully historic spectacle of the torch relay being in Cumbria only last week.

But it’s how they’ve grabbed that baton which is so impressive. People like Helen, and so many teachers and coaches like her, are really making a difference and ensuring that our schoolchildren right here in Furness, South Lakes and Copeland are benefitting from an Olympic legacy.

She can rattle off the top of her head the numbers of athletes from Furness at the games in Carlisle, 40 golfers, 12 hockey players, 28 athletes, 12 orienteerers, eight tennis players, 10 netball players, eight pan footballers, five table tennis players and 20 young volunteers, and we even had the five gold rings – in our minds at least as the Olympic spirit pervaded the athletes’ efforts.

And Helen’s enthusiasm and ethos was inspiring. “It’s about giving these young people as many opportunities to do as many diverse sports as possible, and it’s about being inclusive, having fun and getting better along the way.”

Down on the athletics track as Holy Family students Molly Amison and Rebecca Keen were stretching themselves in the long jump as part of the athletics tournament school sports co-ordinator Mike Bowker was no less inspirational.

Through his leadership Holy Family have enjoyed success in tag rugby and cricket, going to Durham next Friday for the regional finals of the latter. And he says the Olympics has changed the way today’s children view sport.

“Instead of ‘oh no it’s PE’, now the children are having fun, they know they don’t have to be the best to try a sport, they can try lots of different sports and have fun, and for me seeing them progressing and having fun is what it’s all about.”

Across on the hockey pitch there was similar pride from Victoria Juniors sports co-ordinator Joanne Stanway, not least because her 13-year-old daughter Georgia, who plays football for Blackburn Rovers, has just been picked for England U15s football team, which shows those pupils battling it out yesterday in a Furness derby against George Romney, and those taking part in whatever sport from whatever school, that the sky really is the limit.

And let’s not forget the volunteers. Sally Hill, teacher at Cartmel Priory School, was delighted with the leadership skills gained by her group of 12 volunteers, aged 13 and 14, from the school who officiated at the golf tournament.

Bursting with pride, fuelled by such enthusiasm, commitment, and having had so much fun (despite the morning rain), whether you were supporting the green of South Lakes, the red of Copeland or blue of Furness, it was enough to have you chanting for your area and giving a well-earned three cheers after the closing ceremony. “Hip, Hip.....

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