The countdown to the Spar Lancashire School Games finals began this week with the celebratory start of a county-wide baton relay.
Beginning in West Lancashire on Monday at Brereton Endowed CE Primary School, the baton was first handed over to children at an opening ceremony at Holy Trinity CE Primary School in Tarleton, before going on to participants at Tarleton Academy.
The 2022 Games are the first to have an Olympic or Commonwealth Games style baton relay, and it will visit a total of 57 schools in the West Lancashire area.
The metallic gold baton will then be passed on to schools in Chorley as it makes its way around the Red Rose County’s 12 districts ahead of the finale in Blackpool’s Stanley Park on Tuesday 5th July.
For 15 consecutive years Spar has sponsored the Lancashire School Games through its Preston-based primary wholesaler and distributor for Northern England, James Hall & Co. Ltd, supporting the work of Active Lancashire and the School Games Organiser Network.
The baton launch event provided the opportunity reflect on the legacy the Games has had in West Lancashire, and inspirational success stories were shared. They include the journey of British pole vault athlete Harry Coppell who competed in the 2012 Lancashire School Games when he was a student at Upholland High School.
That year he won the National School Games Pole Vault Event in the London Olympic Stadium, and he added to his gold medal in 2013 by winning the World Youth Games Pole Vault.
Throughout his college and university studies, Harry helped to organise and lead many of the SPAR Lancashire School Games Events at both West Lancashire District and County Level, and on leaving university, coached athletics in schools for the West Lancashire Sport Partnership.
Harry said: “Having been inspired by the opportunities that the SPAR Lancashire School Games provided me, I was grateful to help the next generation of school children on their journey.”
In 2019, Harry moved to Loughbrough to train full time and his commitment paid off by him winning the Men’s British Pole Vault Championships in 2019, 2020 and 2021. He set a new British Record of 5.85m at the 2020 Championships, an Olympic qualifying height, which led to his selection for the Olympic Games in Tokyo where he qualified for the final.
Harry added: “I would have loved to have been part of the baton relay this week and share my story with the children, but I am training hard in Loughborough preparing myself for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022. I want to wish the children competing in the Lancashire School Games this year every success as it is an event that means a lot to me.”
Adrian Leather, chief executive of Active Lancashire, said: “We are so proud to have Harry as an inspiration for pupils in West Lancashire, many of whom have been coached by him or have taken part in School Games events organised by him, and it was a pleasure to share his progression with children at the launch.
“The 2022 Lancashire School Games really gives us an opportunity to inspire more children to get active and engage with sport, tapping into the build up to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, and as we open up and emerge from the pandemic.”
Niels Dekkers, retail development director at James Hall & Co. Ltd, said: “It was brilliant as sponsors to be able to support the start of the baton relay in Tarleton, and to see how it energises and enthuses the children participating in the Lancashire School Games.
“Spar remains committed to the Lancashire School Games and the work of Active Lancashire and the School Games Organiser Network and we look forward to hearing more legacy stories from around the county as the baton passes its way from district to district.”
The Lancashire School Games 2022 provides children and young people with the opportunities to have fun, develop skills, and achieve personal bests through games, activities and competitions in a calendar of events across the academic year.
The aim of the 2022 Games is to help young people recover from the effects of pandemic, and support those who may have been impacted the most. It will culminate in a celebration event in Blackpool’s Stanley Park on Tuesday 5th July 2022.