50 Years of Women

50 YEARS OF WOMEN IN RUNNING

 

The "History of the Caversham Harrier and Amateur Athletic Club the First 50 years 1905-55" by Gilbert Hebbard records the following: "How can the Club grow in strength? What is in store for the next 50 years of Athletics in Otago? Will the Club open its ranks to the members of the opposite sex? Who knows? Time may tell."  Seven years later this question became a reality.

It was in 1962 when the Club President Ron Cain welcomed women runners to the Club. There were two registered that year: Rae Deans, whose mother Beryl was later to become the first woman President of the Club, and Beverley Williams. This number increased to 17 in 1963. Club Historian Gilbert Hebbard, a leading supporter of women members, took responsibility for looking after and encouraging them all on their Saturday runs. Caversham made themselves responsible for organising races for the women at the Edmond Cup and other Otago Centre races prior to their acceptance by the Centre in 1965.  The first Caversham woman to compete in an open race held in Otago was Noeleen Hughes in 1966. Roslyn Mitchell who joined in 1967 won the Junior Barnes Cross Country in 1968 and the Otago Junior Cross Country in 1969. Roslyn was an Otago Cross Country Representative from 1969 to 1971 while in 1985 she became the first woman to win the classic Port Chalmers to Dunedin Road Race.

Since their initiation Women members have made a huge contribution in both competition and administration to the strength of the Caversham Club. Beryl Deans, who was Club President in the 75th Jubilee Year in 1980, was a tireless worker over many years who also filled the role of Secretary Treasurer of Otago Centres Advisory Committee for eight years and served 17 years as an Athletics Otago Track and Field Official.  A person who did much to foster women's running in the Caversham Club was Margaret Knox (nee Ashton) who joined in 1968. Margaret served as Club Secretary for a number of years while achieving much success in competition. Margaret was an Otago Women's Cross Country representative in 1971-73-76 and the winner of the Caversham Junior Women's Aggregate in 1971-73-74. Margaret also recorded fastest time for Women in the Caversham Club's Brighton to Green Island Road Race from 1975 to 78. Margaret's mother Barbara, along with Alice Olsen, were the initial organisers of women's age group running in 1977, a major breakthrough at that time.

Jenny Hughes, who joined Caversham in 1981, was one of four women who initially competed in the Men's section of the Clydeto Alexandra Road Race and the Port Chalmers to Dunedin Road Race that same year. Jenny was a high class athlete who was the Otago record holder for 17 years for the Christchurch Marathon with a time of 2.46.52 set in 1985. Jenny was the Otago Cross Country and Otago Road Championship winner in 1987. Another to compile a great record both as an athlete and administrator is Maria Sleeman who joined in 1985. Maria has won Masters Women's titles in both Otago Cross Country and Otago Road Championships as well as numerous track titles. More recently Maria has been an age group gold medallist at the New Zealand Cross Country Championships. Maria was Caversham Club President from 2006 to 2008, served a long period as Club Secretary and is the entries and results collator for the Caversham Club- organised Cadbury Moro Marathon. Maria is also a principal organiser for the annual Secondary Schools Road Relays started by Caversham in 1979.

Paula Giles was an integral figure in the running of the Caversham Children's Athletics Section initially in association with her father Malcolm. Her efforts saw the Children's Section survive some difficult years and continue to operate successfully. Her mother Claire is a top ranking Otago masters athlete in sprints and field events.

Women members played a key role in establishing the Caversham Walking Section in 1995, today numbering over 50 members who participate in all manner of events throughout Otago. Gail Sharp, a leading Otago race walker, has also represented Caversham in a number of running events.

Congratulations to all women members past and present on achieving 50 years of successful association with the Caversham Harrier and Athletic Club.