Athletic duo on the staff at Wigan secondary school rack up international honours

Sam Walsh and Dan Eckersall, who both work at Dean Trust Rose Bridge and compete in international sport
Sam Walsh and Dan Eckersall, who both work at Dean Trust Rose Bridge and compete in international sport

Two athletes working at a Wigan school have been giving lessons to their sporting opponents after getting to represent their country.

Sam Walsh, the assistant headteacher at Dean Trust Rose Bridge in Ince, and Dan Eckersall who works there as a partnership officer, are both competing in the international arena.

Dan, who is employed by Manchester United to do mentoring and coaching work at the Holt Street school, made his debut for England in Canada in the hard-hitting, fast-paced sport of indoor lacrosse.

And Sam has rocketed up the rankings in the gruelling Ironman triathlon and has qualified for the 2020 World Championship in Hawaii.

Dan, who plays as a forward, made the most of his international debut in the World Championship, racking up four goals and around half a dozen assists as England finished fourth.

Their impressive performance included taking a USA side stacked with full-time professional talent to the wire in the bronze medal game before losing 11-8.

Dan, 29, said: “It was an amazing achievement considering we are all amateur lacrosse players. It was a brilliant experience with a great group of guys.”

Sam is now looking to secure an equally-impressive showing when he pulls on the GB colours for the world-famous endurance event in Kona next October.

The Ironman involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full 26.2-mile marathon and Sam qualified for Hawaii at the UK event in Bolton, finishing in 10 hours and 22 seconds.

He became hooked on the arduous challenge after volunteering at the 2013 Ironman UK, taking his place on the start line at Pennington Flash for the first time the following year.

In five years he has risen through the field and secured some impressive results, coming 24th overall at one Ironman in Wales and beating many full-time athletes.

Sam, who is originally from Hindley, said: “Each year I’ve got better and more confident and I’ve learned more.

“I’m going to Hawaii for the experience and to pit myself against the best in the world.

“It’s tough combining it with work. It is a lot of 5am alarms for training and more hours after school. I will stick to teaching though as I enjoy it.”

Both Sam and Dan hope their exploits will inspire pupils, with Dan saying he is also thinking about introducing Rose Bridge pupils to lacrosse.