Sportsman and Harriers member dies suddenly, aged 69

Geoff Smith, a member of Banbury Harriers, who has died.
Geoff Smith, a member of Banbury Harriers, who has died.

Well known sportsman and member of Banbury Harriers, Geoff Smith, has died.

Smithy, as he was known, was the spearhead of The Banbury Fifteen road-race and also a long standing member of the Harriers track and field club. He died on May 2 aged 69.

He held the position of club chairman in recent years and was also an inspirational coach, competing for the club and organising East Midland Grand Prix’s Banbury Five.

He was also a strong supporter of the Oxfordshire Cross-country League. The Banbury Fifteen run alongside The Paul Bithell Memorial Fun Run taking place in March over the years raised money for Katherine House.

His coaching skills produced a number of talented young athletes, perhaps the best being Connie McMillan who not only reached the top at cross-country on the track distances from 800metres to 3000metres. She even claimed medals at 300 and 400metres hurdles at UK championships at under 17 and junior levels. Recently he has helped Ros Kelling develop the talents of Emily Thompson as a more than useful 800 and 1500-metre runner.

Geoff was born on March 3, 1946 and lived in Boddington, and from an early age developed an interest in all sport. This was soon noticed and at teenage school level he gained junior county cap at cricket with Warwickshire. He also soon caught the eye at football with his tough tackling attitude in what would be called today playing in midfield. His pace and work rate was never a doubt he soon gained recognition at school level. He joined Woodford United FC who played then in the Northampton Combination League.

He was soon spotted by Long Buckby with his all energy and tough tackling style and he moved to join them in division two of the United Counties League, during the 1969/70 season.

Over the coming seasons Geoff made such an impact and became vice captain, the club gained promotion to the premier league and gained a host of trophies and league honours.

Geoff was always first on the team sheet and he was quick to criticize those who slacked on the playing field.

He met his wife Sandra and worked at Alcan, travelling to Long Buckby in all weathers on his scooter from the family home in Fenny Compton. Geoff in later years joined Tysoe and played and managed the club.

His two sons came into the world and has they developed he joined Banbury Harriers with the family in the early 1980s.

Both the boys became useful athletes, Sullivan an all-round middle distance runner and Wesley a 50-metre plus javelin thrower. Sullivan at present holds the record for the Banbury Fifteen.

This coming Tuesday see’s this year’s running of the Banbury Five from its usual start in Burns Road and finish at The Easington. Geoff will hope a course record will go and knowing him for liking a little flutter on the horses he will have a bet on that happening. This would be a fitting tribute to him.