Why Ipswich club best in Qld

Ipswich Little Athletics centre manager Melissa Smith enjoys working with an experienced team at Bill Paterson Oval, having been a former junior thrower.


ASKED why Ipswich’s Little Athletics Centre is one of the best in Queensland, official Melissa Smith is happy to share a story of success.

“We’ve been around for a long time.  I think that helps,” the centre manager said.

“We’ve got great officials and lots of people who know what they are doing.”

With dedicated coaches also returning each year, Smith appreciates having senior officials like Ann Bell, Barry Wenzel and Michael Smolenski supporting her.

She said that experienced guidance highlights why more than 400 athletes aged from under-6 to 16 years have already signed on this season.

“Last year we were the biggest club in Queensland with 476,” Smith said.

“We usually get a few after Christmas and that so we’re still climbing.”

The Ipswich Little Athletics Centre is regularly acknowledged at the annual state conference, winning awards for efficiency and individual achievements.

However, Raceview-based Smith said most satisfying was seeing kids participate and enjoying themselves.

The Friday night club season is well under way, leading up to the popular regional relays at University of Queensland on November 11.

The state relays are in Brisbane on December 15.

Ipswich is hosting regional championships at Bill Paterson Oval in February after the centre’s annual Twilight carnival on January 19.

The state titles are in Townsville in late March.

Before all that, a Summer Carnival is also scheduled at Nathan on November 4.

The Collingwood Park State School teacher said one of the major appeals of Little Athletics was the multi-purpose platform it gave young people.

“Little Athletics is kind of a base for all other sports.  Your running and your jumping,” she said.  “You use those (skills) in all of the other sports.  It’s a good grounding for athletes.”

She said even if kids focused on sports like softball or rugby league, Little A’s was helpful in building skills and speed.

As for her role, Smith is entering her sixth season as centre manager.

Her job is to oversee everything, working closely with her committed colleagues.

Smith is also a liaison to Little Athletics Queensland, with experience in registration and recording results, as well as operating photo finish equipment and helping out wherever needed.

She joined the official ranks having competed for Ipswich Little Athletics from under-6 to her teenage years.

The former shotput, discus and javelin thrower continued her involvement with the sport through her daughters Paya and Madeline.

“It’s a great way of making friendships,” she said.  “I still see people from other centres when I was doing Little A’s.

“We were just talking about going to Townsville (for the state titles).  Back when we did Little A’s, we used to get on a bus and go up to Townsville.”

She said some of her best friends came when athletes from South East Queensland headed north around the same time for competition.

“We see a lot of people coming back,” she said.

Smith was an athletics volunteer at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

She was recognised with a Merit Award at the Little Athletics annual conference.