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Friends for life – Rivals for a day!

Two lifelong friends and Old Oswestrians, Ian Roberts and Jo Warner were opposing team managers at the 2016 Home Nations’ Schools’ International Track & Field Athletics Competition. Ian was with the English Schools team, and Jo with the Welsh.

Ian and Jo have been friends since the early 1980s, having trained and competed together as members of Oswestry Olympians Athletics Club under the guidance of Jo’s dad, John Evans.

Ian, known as IJ Roberts at school, was a pupil at Oswestry School between 1979 and 1986, and gives immense credit to his PE teachers Peter Jones and Roger Leonard for the foundation they helped lay. Ian is particularly grateful to Roger ‘for the time and effort he invested in me. He really believed in me, and I will always thank him for that’.

Jo was a student in the Sixth Form from 1985 to 1987, and like Ian was a good all-rounder, representing the school in Netball, swimming, and Athletics. Jo is very clear that this broad experience has laid a very important foundation for her life and career.

Following Oswestry School, both Ian and Jo pursued careers in Physical Education. Ian trained at Bedford College of PE (now University of Bedfordshire) and Jo trained at West Glamorgan Institute (now Cardiff Metropolitan University). Ian went on to teach in Hertfordshire, including many years as Head of PE at Fearnhill School in Letchworth, and Jo joined the PE department at Hawthorn High School. Ian is now the Specialist PE and School Sport Adviser for Cambridgeshire, and Jo is Head of VI form at Hawthorn High School.

Both Ian and Jo represented Wales as Athletes. Jo was a Junior Welsh Heptathlon international and national champion whilst at Oswestry School, and Ian was a senior international Long Jumper on several occasions in the early 1990s. As coaches and team managers, both Ian and Jo have extensive experience. Jo has been a coach and Manager for Glamorgan schools for over 20 years, and has also delivered athletics workshops and lectures to trainee teachers at Cardiff Met university. She has also been a team manager for the Welsh Schools Athletics team for three years. Ian has been a coach of elite athletes since his own ‘career’ finished in the mid 1990s and has been a team manager for England and GB teams at all ages from Schools through to Senior level 19 times. He was a team coach at the Commonwealth Youth Games in India in 2008, and has supported many top athletes on their pathway to ‘stardom’ including Greg Rutherford, Robbie Grabarz and Louise Hazel and he is currently coach of Eleanor Broome, who was ranked #5 in the world for U18 long jump in 2016.

Ian reflecting on his time in Athletics says ‘whenever I see Shropshire teams at the English Schools Championships, I am always curious how many are Oswestry School pupils. I still remember the immense pride I took when Mr Leonard told me I had been selected to represent the county at the 1983 English Schools Championships. I genuinely think he was as proud as me, and that tells me everything!’