THREE members of Avon Valley Runners have been recognised in the England Athletics South West Volunteer of the Year Awards, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

Jay Sims-Bagshaw, Holly Newman and David Hyde were named among the 18 prize winners at the recent Zoom conference call, making the club the best represented not just in Wiltshire but across the whole region.

Sims-Bagshaw was named Run Leader of the Year for 2020, Newman won the Young Volunteer of the Year award, and Hyde finished runner-up in the Volunteer of the Year section.

“It is very flattering and nice but it isn’t why I do the sport. I am just one of many volunteers who make Avon Valley Runners the club it is today,” said Sims-Bagshaw.

“It is why Avon Valley Runners is one of the best clubs around and people now know what we are about, especially in the times we have gone through recently.

“We have tried really hard to keep in touch with our members through Zoom meetings, well-being courses and learning to cope with anxiety.

“I think running and mental health are intrinsically linked.”

As an employee with Bath MIND (the charity for better mental health) Sims-Bagshaw, who lives in Bradford-on-Avon, is certainly well qualified to talk on that subject, and in a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, running and exercise have become more important than ever.

Sadly, the global pandemic meant AVR wasn’t able to run their beginners’ class this year, but this award was recognition of Sims-Bagshaw’s work in 2019 when she introduced a group of 60 beginners to the sport and inspired 40 of them to subsequently sign up.

While Sims-Bagshaw was winning her first award in this scheme, Newman, still only 22, notched up her third successive success in the Young Volunteer category.

A winner in 2018 she was named runner-up last year but was back in top spot again after impressing the judges with her energy and dedication.

‘Always available to help, her knowledge and skills for transmitting information to others is amazing. She currently leads the Junior element of Avon Valley Runners and she’s developed an incredible rapport with her athletes,’ read the official verdict.

But Newman, a former student at St Laurence School in Bradford-on-Avon who recently embarked on a degree in sport coaching and physical education at Oxford Brookes University, modestly deflected that praise.

“It is very much a big team effort,” said Newman, whose family home is in Melksham.

“It is a nice accolade to have but I could spent hours listing all the volunteers who do great things at the club. As Jay always says, we are all like small cogs in a big machine and we all work together to get things done.

“I think it is very special for Jay and David to win their awards for the first time because they work so hard.”

Hyde made the virtual podium for the first time as runner-up in the volunteer of the year section, with victory going to Debbie Brooks of North Somerset AC.