College Sport: Teen sprinter on fast track to brighter things

By Campbell Burnes

James Guthrie-Croft has the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games in his sights but says his mental approach needs work before he gets there. Picture / Doug Sherring
James Guthrie-Croft has the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games in his sights but says his mental approach needs work before he gets there. Picture / Doug Sherring

James Guthrie-Croft is a man on a mission in 2016.

The 15-year-old, year 12 St Peter's student now carries a higher profile than he did prior to December's schools athletics nationals in Timaru.

There he bagged three gold medals in the junior boys' 100m, 200m and long jump. Now he knows he is a marked man, but has reeled off some impressive times over summer, breaking the 11s barrier for the 100m in his club outings for Papatoetoe. His PB is 10.97s.

A busy time lies ahead, starting with Monday's St Peter's athletics day, then the track and field club nationals in Dunedin (March 4-6), Central-Western zone schools meet (March 9), Auckland schools champs (March 23), and North Islands in early April. He will know the Mt Smart track like the back of his hand by season's end.

Afterwards, he will switch his focus to rugby, when he hopes to crack the first XV as a wing, and basketball, where he plays as a small forward in the first V.

But first things first.

"Hopefully I can get my times down and run well. I think I'm in good shape at the moment."

Guthrie-Croft's standout efforts in Timaru saw him as the only athlete with three golds in a career highlight. The long jump victory was a surprise, given he puts little time into the discipline. He even hinted he may drop it and focus on the sprints.

"I'm not the fastest out of the blocks, so I prefer the 200m."

Under coach Juan Whippy, father of his St Peter's school and athletics mate Caleb Whippy, Guthrie-Croft's 200m PB is 21.87s.

What makes it more impressive is the fact Guthrie-Croft has a condition known as dyspraxia, which can hamper his motor skills. He has a unique running style, but plenty of repetition at training means he can function without the dyspraxia ever really affecting his technique or form.

"It's just hard to learn new things or techniques," he said. "Sometimes I really have to think about how to run, which foot goes first. But mostly I don't think about the dyspraxia and my parents don't talk about it, either."

The lean, lithe Guthrie-Croft has been running for only two years but already knows he is keen to push on as far as he can in athletics. Short term, the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games is pencilled in as a goal.

He says he needs to work on his mental approach, but that does not include his determination, which is already clearly evident.

The next few weeks will see him shuttle almost exclusively between his Papatoetoe club, One Tree Hill home, Mt Smart Stadium and school.

Apart from Guthrie-Croft, St Peter's have a solid group of good athletes, including senior hurdler Oliver Miller, the 300m national schools senior champion.

- NZ Herald

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