Comet Sports Awards: Winners revealed
PUBLISHED: 10:37 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:38 04 March 2019
©Cathy Benucci Photography
The 2018 Comet Sports Awards evening at Stevenage Arts & Leisure Centre proved a great success on Friday night.
After receiving a record number of entries, editor Nick Gill – a member of one of Stevenage’s running clubs himself – welcomed all finalists to the 17th awards evening in his opening speech, while speaking of his own love of sport.
And Paul Ruff, general manager of SLL, added his own welcome before introducing youngsters from the Gordon Craig Theatre senior academy for a performance of ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ from Hairspray.
Hst David Croft, the Sky Sports formula one commentator, then opened with his own heartfelt introduction, recalling his time as a young press officer for the venue and talking about the power of spirt to unite towns and countries.
Then came the presentations and Adam Willard was named coach of the year, sponsored by Hertfordshire life, after getting the vote ahead of Rob Dowler, Dan Stephenson and Denise Wells.
Badminton starlet Leona Lee won her third successive youth achievement award, sponsored by jobs24.co.uk, ahead of fellow finalists Lauren Higham, baylin Johnson and Elizabeth Bown and told Croft of her hopes to appear at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
And the two-time National champions Greneway School year eight boys footballers won youth team of the year honours ahead of Stevenage Storm Blizzard, Bedwell Rangers Lazio u8s and Hitchin Cricket Club u15s, receiving their award from sponsors Decathlon.
Rugby League outfit North Herts Crusaders – made up of players from rival clubs – won team of the year, sponsored by Redwood Bank, ahead of Blueharts Hockey Club’s women’s fourths, Stevenage Sports Acrobatics and Stevenage Ladies Reserves.
And inspirational marathon runners Eleanor and Dennis Draper, aged 82 and 83, won the veteran achievement prize sponsored by Archant, ahead of North Herts Road Runners Veteran Squirrels, Nick Malpeli and Gina Joseph.
At the other end of the age scale, St Ippolyts Primary took school of the year honours from St Mary’s Junior, Greneway and Hitchin Girls for school of the year, sponsored by Park Place.
The ever-expanding Stevenage Starlets were named club of the year, sponsored by the Comet, ahead of North Herts Crusaders, Hitchin Belles and Blueharts HC, and the Paul Pearce disability award, sponsored by SLL, went to the inspirational Mark Evans for his swimming exploits, with Martina Barber, James Acraman and Phil Fielding the other finalists.
Acraman took the sports personality award, sponsored by Stevenage Borough Council, for his Guinness world-record breaking achievements ahead of Sarah Huntley as Paul Manning won the sports photograph of the year, sponsored by the Square In The Air, for his image of the Stevenage Starlets and friends at a taster day called ‘These Girls Can’.
James Walsh and Chloe Emmerson were the other finalists in the photograph of the year category, before Beverley Graham won the Service to Sport award, sponsored by Fosters Legal LLP, for her work with British Cycling in getting more women on their bikes, ahead of Teddy Stephenson, Paul Holgate and Terry Graves.
And so concluded another wonderful celebration of sporting achievement in Comet Country, by young and old, that should serve as inspiration to all.
Here’s to more sporting success stories throughout 2019!