The Welsh Schools National Track & Field Championships – 50 years ago!
10/07/2020 00:00, In Blog /
This weekend we look back on to the first Welsh Schools Championships held 50years ago! - written by Pete Morris.
The Welsh Schools National Track & Field Championships.
The first of the Welsh Schools’ national track and field championships – for boys only – was held in June 1947, at Taff Vale Park in Pontypridd and, with the exception of 1984, they had been held each year up until 2019, which was the 72nd staging.
Because of the current coronavirus pandemic regulations, the 2020 ‘nationals’ have rightly been cancelled.
To give pupils, parents, teachers and volunteers a flavour of how things ‘used to be’, we provide an outline of what happened at the event 50 years ago – in 1970.
The Date – not the first weekend in July
Most of us associate the date of these ‘national’ championships with the first weekend in July but, for many years, they were held on the second weekend in July - in 1970, the event was held on Saturday, July 11th.
The Venue – not Brecon or Cardiff
Since 2001, the ‘nationals’ have been held either in Cardiff or at Penlan in Brecon. Prior to that year, the venue rotated around Wales.
In 1970, the event was staged at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire – the fifth time that the event had been held there. This was a facility with a six lane cinder track.
The venue on the north Wales coastline meant that competing teams from the south took nearly all of the Friday before the event to travel north in the team coach (or coaches) on roads not designed for high speed travel.
Teams travelling from the south could not get to Colwyn Bay and back in a day, so they were ‘hosted’ by local residents and families in the area surrounding the venue. That could mean that pupils ended up being hosted in places across Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire.
In 1970, some of the Glamorgan boys were hosted on a caravan site far away on Llangefni in Anglesey while some of Brecon & Radnor boys ended up billeted in a local ‘remand centre’ in Colwyn Bay.
The Number of Competing Teams
From the first ‘nationals’ in 1947 to 1974, competition was based on teams from the twelve affiliated counties.
Anglesey, Brecon & Radnor, Caernarvon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Merioneth, Monmouth, Montgomery and Pembrokeshire.
With only six lanes available on the track, this meant that separate heats and finals had to be held for track events up to and including 400 metres, and for the relays.
A top ranked sprinter could find that they were competing in a heat and final of the 100 metres, the 200/150 metres and the relay – so they had to be fit as well as fast!
The Age Groups and the Events contested
Because the ‘nationals’ had started in 1947 as a competition for senior, middle and junior boys, they were well catered for in terms of events. When competition for girls was first included in 1955, only a small number of events had been held for senior and juniors but that list had been expanded and the ‘middle’ section had been added in 1967.
Five new events were held for the first time in 1970, and the distance of the junior boys’ hurdles was altered from 75 to 80 metres. The events contested were:
Senior Boys: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 110m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles, 2000m steeplechase, 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Shot, Discus, Hammer, Javelin
Middle Boys: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 100m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles, 1000m steeplechase (new event), 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Shot, Discus, Hammer (new event), Javelin
Junior Boys: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 80m Hurdles (distance altered), 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, Triple Jump (no limitation on length of run-up), Shot, Discus, Hammer (new event), Javelin
Senior Girls: 100m, 200m, 800m, 100m Hurdles, 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Long Jump, Shot, Discus, Javelin
Middle Girls: 100m, 200m, 800m, 80m Hurdles, 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Long Jump, Shot, Discus, Javelin
Junior Girls: 100m, 150m, 800m (new event), 75m Hurdles, 4 x 100m relay, High Jump, Long Jump, Shot, Discus, Javelin
Only ‘the walk’ and the junior 1500 metres is missing from the boys’ events while the girls did not have a 300/400 metres, 1500 metres, 3000 metres (seniors and middles) plus the walk on the track and they also missed out on three field event - pole vault, triple jump and hammer!
The Event Programme
A very detailed and professional programme was produced with athletes listed with their standard county number (from 1 for Anglesey to 12 for Pembrokeshire) and the name of their school/college – all at a cost of only two shillings/10 pence.
The timetable of 108 events (including heats and finals on the track) started at 10.30 and continued through to the finish at 5.45 pm – with no break for lunch, which was included in earlier years.
On the track, heats were pre-drawn while the programme also included the track draw for endurance events and the competition order in field events.
As was the standard practice at the time, pupils were listed with an initial instead of their full Christian name and, as will be seen from the copy of the results (which is available as a download), there were a number of substitutions made by county team managers on the day, which has resulted in details of the pupil’s school being missed out.
Championship Bests or Records?
Championship best performances were included in the programme with the event timing.
Athletics had gone ‘metric’ in 1969, so the vast majority of track events had only been contested once over the ‘new’ metric distance and the 1969 winner was listed as the championship best.
There is also a puzzle over some championships bests in sprint and hurdles events because a number of the winning times at the 1969 championships in Brecon, which are published in the association’s 1969 report, do not appear as event bests in the 1970 programme!
The Awards – No Medals!
The winner of each individual event plus any individual who achieved the event standard was due to receive ‘the association certificate’.
These were presented immediately after the last relay at the end of the day.
In addition, there were three special awards:
The Guto Nyth Bran Cup: Awarded to the Boy or Girl achieving the best individual performance.
The Welsh Academicals Cup: Awarded to the boy achieving an outstanding performance.
Major CR Tucker Bowl: Awarded to the girl achieving an outstanding performance.
Although not as important in 1970 as they have been since 1980, team competitions have been scored since the early days of the ‘nationals’.
Pupils could gain points for their county in one of two ways:
A. The top six ranked pupils in each individual event or top six ranked counties in relay events were awarded points on the basis of 6 points for first down to 1 point for sixth, and
B. With the exception of pupils competing in the 100 metres events, each individual or team achieving the ‘event standard’ was awarded 2 points for their county.
This was in the days before computers became available, so everything – results, certificates and team scores – had to be worked out and produced by recorders! There are seven listed in the programme.