Banchory Stonehaven coach awarded BEM

Willy Russell with Banchory Stonehaven Athletics Club athletes Craig Strachan and Alisha Rees
Willy Russell with Banchory Stonehaven Athletics Club athletes Craig Strachan and Alisha Rees

Willy Russell, Banchory Stonehaven Athletics Club’s long-serving coach, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List.

Willy, who is also a former club president, has been 
recognised for his services to athletics in north-east Scotland.

Willy has been coaching youngsters at the Banchory Stonehaven club for more than 35 years.

Approaching his 78th birthday, Willy is still going strong and inspiring athletes at the club.

He has nurtured talented sprinters such as the GB junior athlete Alisha Rees, Kathryn Christie and Craig Strachan.

Former Banchory Academy pupil Alisha is now studying sociology at Loughborough University and is coached by Leon Baptiste, the 2010 Commonwealth Games 200 metres and 4x100 metres gold medallist.

Craig, 16, from Finzean, was in the Scotland U18 team for the Celtic Games International against Wales and Ireland at Grangemouth Stadium last summer.

Before that, he gained an excellent bronze medal in the 200 metres in the Schools International event, which was also held at Grangemouth, in mid-July.

Willy’s talents are not just limited to sprint coaching: he trained GB distance runners Robbie Simpson, the Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist, and Rhona Auckland when they were younger.

Modest as ever, Willy commented: “I think that it is terrific for a small club like ours that a member should receive an honour such as this.

“It is recognition of what the club is achieving in the local community.”

Thanks to Willy’s efforts, BSAC has produced a disproportionately high number of very high calibre athletes. Always quick with a joke and never short of a story for the youngsters, Willy is best known for his strap phrase “Stand Up and Run!”

Mairi Levack, a coach at North Uist Amateur Athletics Club, also received a BEM in the New Year Honours list.

Mairi, who received honorary life membership of scottishathletics in November, receives her BEM for services to sport and young people on the islands of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.