Coach-of-the-year Sonya Ellis was 'amazed' to win Echo award
WITH nominations open for the Express & Echo Sports Awards, one of this year's winners has revealed she was 'amazed' to be recognised.
Sonya Ellis was crowned coach of the year at the inaugural awards in January, rewarded for her work setting up the South West Athletics Academy.
She beat off competition from Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter, Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale and cricket coach Trevor Griffin to pick up the award.
Ellis admitted she was shocked when her name was read out as the winner.
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It was the start of a successful year for Ellis, as she was also named coach of the year at the Devon sports awards in February and was nominated in the community coach of the year category at the UK Coaching Awards.
She was delighted to be honoured in her home city, where the academy is based.
"It was really amazing because I wasn't expecting it, especially with who I was up against," Ellis said. "I was a bit gobsmacked.
"When they called out the finalists, some people on my table said 'at least you got short-listed'. When I won it was a bit of a shock.
"I then went on to the Devon awards and won that as well and I was short-listed for the UK coach awards and was runner-up.
"The start of it was the Exeter one and that was special because that's where I'm from and it's where I'm doing a lot of my activities and coaching."
As well as being delighted to collect a trophy, Ellis also enjoyed the awards evening as she got to mingle with a host of sporting figures from the region.
"I always think it's nice to network with people from other sports, it's something I believe in with my coaching," she said.
"There were a lot of people there that I already knew but I met a lot of new people as well so it was really good.
"It was a nice evening as well, I thought it was very good."
Next year's awards will take place at the Rougemont Hotel, Queen Street, on February 25.
There will be 10 awards up for grabs as we look to celebrate the sporting achievements of 2012.
The headline sponsor of the awards is Ivor Doble jewellers, who are also putting their name to the prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award.
Other categories will recognise competitors, coaches and volunteers at community clubs, while there is an award to mark the efforts people put in to help with promoting the 2012 Olympics in the Exeter area.
Ellis was involved in the showcase event over the summer, acting as an athletes steward.
She escorted track and field athletes from the warm-up area into the Olympic Stadium for their events and was fortunate enough to be in the arena on the night Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all won gold medals.
"It was incredible going up there and just being part of that," Ellis said of the Olympics and Paralympics.
"I was in the warm-up area and I would take a group through to the tunnel to final call, help with the final checks then take them onto the track or the field.
"If there was a disqualification – and there were four I had to deal with – you had to remove them from the track.
"I did the javelin on super Saturday, so I was at the edge of the track for two-and-a-half hours while that was going on. That was incredible.
"I met so many athletes, pretty much everybody there for track and field came through us. It was a fantastic experience and I met some really great people up there."
To nominate someone and for more details of the event, visit www.exetersportsawards.co.uk