Tribute to Sunderland Harrier and esteemed coach Ken Jefferson

Sunderland Harrier and esteemed middle distance coach, Ken Jefferson, has died at the age of 71.

Wednesday, 6th June 2018, 1:30 pm
Ken Jefferson' right, pictured with protegee Michael Wilson.

He was the central figure in Sunderland Harriers successes on the national and North East young athletics scene during the 1990s and up to a few years ago before illness forced him to stand down.

He joined Sunderland Harriers during the early 1960s and competed as a youngster before leaving the club to play local football for some of the leading teams.

The shipyard draughtsman returned to the Harriers in 1981 when he brought his son Lee to join the club. With coaching staff thin on the ground he started coaching schoolboy middle distance runners. He took his coaching badges and sat down to plan his long term strategy which led to his first national team honours during the 1990s.

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He found that coaching was his niche as success continued at an astonishing rate, no doubt fired by his enthusiasm and the well thought out training sessions at the Silksworth track. His no-nonsense approach to training gained the respect of his charges and this led to great camaraderie among the boys.

Jefferson’s first national team achievement came in 1993 when Sunderland Under-15 Boys won the National Road Relay title. They followed this by winning the title a further four times including the Over-17 title in 2000.

They were just as successful over the country, winning national team titles three times and a host of Northern and North East titles.

Jefferson saw his charges Malcom Hassan, Lee Browell and David Clark win English Schools’ cross country vests and Mark Hood winning the North East Senior Men’s cross country title three times. Hassan also went onto to win the AAA’S Under-17 1500m title in 1999, while Michael Wilson and Gavin Massingham have also starred on the track, winning many titles.

Ken’s wife Joy also played her part by driving the club’s mini bus up and down the country to the various championships.

Jefferson’s input into Sunderland Harriers cannot be understated. Towards the end of his career he volunteered to help out at the club races as a judge recorder.

He was remembered at last week’s Penshaw Hill race with a minutes silence and a round of applause. The funeral takes place at St Nicholas Church, Queen Alexandra Road, at 11am on Monday, June 18.