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Burnley College Sixth Form Centre Elite Athletes honoured in National Sports Awards

Two talented Burnley College Sixth Form Centre Elite Athletes are celebrating after receiving national recognition from the Association of Colleges.

Swimming champion Zak Smith-Shelley (18), from Colne, was highly commended in the Student Performer of the Year category, while captain of the College’s successful netball team, Caitlin Ianelli (18), from Todmorden, was highly commended in the Inspirational Student of the Year category of the prestigious annual awards which recognise the exceptional sporting talents of students from across the country.

Sport student Zak, a former pupil at Blessed Trinity RC College, successfully combines his rigorous training schedule and competitions across the UK, with his College work and will progress to study Advanced Level Fitness Services this autumn. As a key member of the College’s successful Elite Athlete programme, he receives individualised strength and conditioning coaching; nutritional advice and guidance on sports psychology to help him reach peak performance.

Nathan Norris, Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach at Fitness Evolution, the award-winning gym at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre, said:

 “This is an amazing achievement for Zak and great recognition for the time and effort he devotes to achieving his full potential as a world-class swimmer. Zak is currently ranked 13th in the country in the 200m freestyle and had qualified for the GB team Olympic trials before Covid-19 where he would have competed against the country’s very best swimmers and established Olympians – what a huge achievement!”

 “Before Covid-19 restrictions, every morning Zak would wake up at 4am to swim for two hours, after which he would cycle 10 miles to College. Not only does this show his immense dedication to his sport but also the grit and determination of a true athlete.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this national recognition.”


Advanced Level Fitness Services student Caitlin Ianelli is a student ambassador, class mentor, captain of the netball team and college council member.  She also volunteers to support activities for disabled students and assists across a range of activities at Fitness Evolution. Caitlin’s enthusiasm and natural talent have led to her upskilling with additional relevant qualifications (Gym Instruction level 2, Personal Training level 3 and British Weightlifting Level 2) so she can play an even greater role in helping others develop a love of fitness and pursue her passion further.

Nathan Norris added:

“Caitlin is committed to her own development within the fitness industry and is working tirelessly towards her own career goals. However, she always makes time to support others, helping them to overcome their own fitness barriers and adopt a healthy, active lifestyle. She has supported nervous children and adult class members alike through her positive, friendly coaching and, as a result, has made a huge impact on her peers and on Fitness Evolution as a whole.

“Caitlin truly is one to watch in the fitness industry. She is a great positive role model for the student body at Burnley College and represents fully what hard work, determination and enthusiasm can achieve.”

Burnley College is a TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) accredited College, recognising its commitment to ensuring that its top athletes have the opportunity to reach their full potential in their chosen sport through specialist training while maintaining the highest academic standards. Its sport and fitness courses are taught by highly-experienced Tutors, many of them former professionals in their chosen field, with access to the very latest sports and fitness equipment, diagnostics and both indoor and outdoor, all-weather facilities.

Sport and fitness are at the heart of life at Burnley College, which has been recognised as number one in England in the latest Government achievement tables. Students already performing at a high level in their chosen sport can join the successful Elite Athlete programme to benefit from tailored strength and conditioning coaching, nutritional and psychological advice and physiotherapy. The College’s  Academy of Sport, led by former professional athletes, is open to all students to take part in competitive sport; many of its extra-curricular activities are focussed on staying active – including table tennis and rock climbing clubs –  and all students receive discounts on fitness classes and gym membership.

Are you passionate about sport and fitness – whether that’s at A Level or via a Vocational programme? Are you looking for a College that shares your passion and will allow you to access professional training alongside your academic studies?  Find out more via www.burnley.ac.uk, contact 01282 733333 or email [email protected].