International triple jumper and Sunderland Harrier Denis Field has died at the age of 90.
The East Herrington athlete took part in 10 international matches from 1950 to 1958, including the Empire Games in Cardiff, and as a veteran he won 20 British National Championships and achieved 12 national records in field events.
He made his senior international debut against France in Paris in 1950, aged only 19, but then had to wait five years for his next selection, becoming the regular partner to the best British triple jumper so far produced in Ken Wilmshurst. He had a life dedicated to sport and particular athletics either in a professional or voluntary capacity.
*Denis Field (centre) with Tommy Henderson and Bob Laidler in 1995
Born in Birmingham he gained a position as senior lecturer and head of PE at Sunderland Polytechnic in 1966 and became a member of the Northern Regional Sports Council and secretary of Sunderland and District Sports Council.
He was a regular at the Silksworth track and trained there when well into his eighties, for the events he loved, the javelin, hammer, discus, shot, and triple jump.
He told Track Stats “I tried my hand at running, but this didn’t last long as I simply couldn’t keep up with any of the Birchfield running groups. Instead, I spent every Sunday morning at the Perry Barr track practicing the high jump, long jump and especially the triple jump. I was entirely self-taught to begin with and coaching didn’t come until much later on.’’
Field began his career in sport when he qualified as a youth sports leader at Birmingham YMCA and was still organising veteran athletics at the age of 72. After enjoying his voluntary work at the YMCA and Birchfield Harriers, he decided, against his parents’ wishes, not to continue in engineering at the end of his apprenticeship. Instead, he wanted to get into organising sport, so he joined the RAF to train as a physical training instructor and soon gained promotion to sergeant.
His next step after his time spent in the RAF was to use his engineering qualifications to obtain a place at a teacher training college as a mature student aged 25, to study PE and maths. His wife Marion, also a member of Birchfield Harriers, and a Midlands champion, became the bread winner during his time at college.
After one year of teaching in Birmingham he moved to Weston-Super-Mare where he took up a teaching post where most of his time was taken up organising local basketball and East Somerset Schools athletics. During his time in Weston he was fortunate to have worked with coaching stalwarts Geoff Dyson, Ron Pickering and Tony Ward. While at Weston he was seconded for one year to study PE and sport to advanced level at Loughborough College. During this period he spent time with the City of Leicester athletics club to undertake, as a part-time lecturer, the organisation of the clubs coaching and competitions.
Looking to move from schools into higher education he moved to Sunderland Polytechnic. In his first year at the Poly he opened up new sports facilities, including a sports hall and a 25m swimming pool, together with organising the students sport and recreation. The following year he became senior lecturer in charge of teacher training and PE, together with the management of sport and recreation.
Spare time was spent working with the Northern Regional Sports Council and secretary of the local sports council.
After eight years he moved from teacher training to management to organise and lecture on sport and recreation and management courses for staff from the region’s sports centres.
In 1981 he joined Sunderland Harriers and decided to again take part in athletics after 17 years out of the sport. But with only one veterans’ track and field meeting each year in the North East there was little opportunity for him to compete. He resolved to develop the veteran athletics scene in the area and since then he served as a track and field organiser for the North East Veterans Association and six years as chairman and president of the association.
Speaking to Track Stats he added: “As my three sons were getting involved in athletics I started competing as a veteran, mainly in field events, though I also did quite a bit of running, including the very first Great North Run in 1981 along with my son Tim. I coached my sons, who were all runners but who also did some triple-jump competitions themselves under my guidance”.
He retired from employment in 1989 and then became a member of Sunderland Harriers Committee for 11 years.
During his retirement he assisted with four British Veterans Cross Country Championships: The1993 British Veterans Track and Field Championships, the 1994 Veterans Cross Country International and the 1999 World Veterans Track and Field Championships at Gateshead Stadium.