Kembla Joggers - New Force In NSW Distance Running
The new force in NSW distance running - Kembla Joggers One of the major success stories for athletics in NSW in recent years has been the affiliation and development of the Wollongong-based jogging club, Kembla Joggers. In just its second year of affiliation with Athletics NSW the club has become a model for jogging clubs throughout Australia. Kembla Joggers had its beginnings back in 1972, when the club's first President, Bill Williamson, arrived in Australia, after travelling from Belfast to Sydney on board the SS Brittanis. Upon arrival, Bill read about the upcoming City to Surf. Although he had no aspirations to run, what caught his attention was the race favourite Derek Clayton (world marathon record-holder) who Bill had raced in Belfast.
Bill was unable to find work in Sydney and headed off to Wollongong, where, upon arrival, he saw Dave Power (dual Olympian) jogging (Bill had run against Dave in Belfast in 1958) But it wasn't until Bill was involved in a challenge race with a fellow employee, in January 1973, that he and others started running and racing regularly. Bill was the driving force behind the new club as its coach, mentor, motivator and handicapper. The club name reflected the workplace of many of its early members (Port Kembla) and the training venue (Mt Kembla). Due to increasing membership in 1974, the club realised the need for a newsletter and launched 'The Fox' a name given to the club's most illustrious runner, Dave Power. Eric Brown held the position of President from 1978-1985. One strong tradition that started during this period was the very social post-race coffee and tea. In 1983, the club organised a successful motivational night, led by Australian representatives Rob McDonald (three world cross country championships) and Steve Poulton (six-time marathon representative). Another highlight of this period was running weekends at Gerroa, Huskisson and Shoalhaven Heads.
Barry Armstrong presided over a most interesting period of growth and change between 1985 and 1992, as the membership reached nearly 200 members. Following a spate of compensation claims against volunteer officials in amateur sporting clubs, committees realised the need to move towards incorporation, a path which Kembla Joggers followed in 1986. Kembla Joggers became incorporated in 1986. Club events at this time included a who's who of distance running. Talented young runner, Kerryn Hindmarsh (nee McCann) joined the club during this period. Also seen in events were Australian 800m champion, Ian Gaudry, national level athletes Peter Gandy and Michael Trinca and World Triathlon champion, Michellie Jones.
In 1992, Neil Barnett, took over the presidency. In 1995, Sydney Water attempted to ban the club from using the Mt Kembla training and competition venue. During this period Kerryn McCann became the second fastest marathoner in Australian history, and representated Australia at the Commonwealth Games, Olympics Games and World Championships. Other running stars to join its ranks were: Lorraine Davis (Australian rep 1994 World Half Marathon Championships) and Jonathan Hall, World Duathlon Champion (1997).
In 1998, Kembla Joggers celebrated its 25th anniverary with various events. In 1995, at the invitation of Athletics NSW, Kembla Joggers considered whether they would affiliate with the State body and therefore its allow members to represent the club at state, National and International events. Two years later, the club committee decided to accept this invitation and in April 1998, Kembla Joggers became affiliated with Athletics NSW.
The club contested its first ever state championship, when its representatives competed at the NSW Road Championships in May 1998. The best performance was by Ben Du Bois in the 10km. He recorded 32:08 to place 15th. Ian Kemp, Tony Murphy and Ron Perry were the club's other representatives at this inaugural State event in the club's history. From these small beginnings, Kembla Joggers Club's level of participation and competitiveness grew. Last June at the NSW Cross Country Championship, the club claimed its first State title when Peter Evans, Bronte Blay, Wayne Montefiore and Ian Kemp combined to win the 35 years teams title. The event also provided the club with its first individual state champion, Peter Evans, in the 45 years 8km cross country event. The club enjoyed more success at the NSW Road Relays Championships in August, claiming three titles - the Men's-open B, 45 years and 55 years, second in the women's open event. The club also won its first junior medal when the under-18 girls team won bronze.
Competing at its first NSW Country Track and Field Championships in January 1999, the club won five titles: Wayne Montefiore (45+ 800m), Peter Evans (45+ 5000m), Bronte Blay (35+ 1500m), Phil Parle (35+ 5000m) and Russell Chin (open 5000m).
The 1999 winter season established Kembla Joggers as one of the leading distance clubs in NSW. It finished second in the open women's points score just behind the powerful Athletics East club and well clear of Sutherland and Bankstown. In the men's divisions, Kembla Joggers was the leading club in the 45 years division and placed second in the 35 years and under-16 ages. In the individual distance runner of the year competition, Ben du Bois and Russell Chin placed 12th and 13th in the men's, while in the women's competition, Kembla Joggers provided five of the top 15 athletes, with Susan Mulready the leading athlete, placing equal third. After just 18 months as a member of Athletics NSW, Kembla Joggers has become one of the leading distance running clubs in NSW, now on equal terms with winter powerhouses like Randwick Botany, Sutherland and Athletics Easts.
The Kembla Joggers story provides a great example to many jogging clubs of how to combine opportunities for the elite, competitive and social athletes.
Article By Athletics NSW