New Year greetings to readers, athletes, officials and supporters. We are all in for an exciting and busy three months with our home venue of Cooks Gardens right at the centre of much of the action.
I would like to thank Iain Hyndman for his four excellent articles on athletics during my short break from writing. In the articles he covered the young Chilean Pole Vaulter Juan Bulness, Jordan Hume's role in successful relays and Liam Back, who in April wins his first New Zealand singlet at the World Schools.
Back follows former Collegiate runner Christian Conder who captained the New Zealand Schools team at the last biannual ISF World Schools Cross Country in Budapest. Conder now at the University of Northern Florida was also well featured by Hyndman.
I would, however, like to correct one small error in the article. Although I managed Conder at many meetings including the World Schools, Christian was in fact very ably coached by his father and former New Zealand international Robert Conder.
On New Year's Day I met my brother on his arrival from Scotland and headed for Northland. We enjoyed two excellent days before the big storm hit.
On the Friday we had intended to look in at the Colgate Games in Auckland to watch Genna Maples in action in the long jump. Day 1 of the Games became a victim of the storm and the Saturday programme was condensed as part of the catch up.
I arrived at the scheduled long jump start times to wait 75 minutes and then found that not only were they jumping into a very strong wind but that they were reduced to two jumps each. Maples had a disastrous first jump but rallied under pressure to take the title with a modest 5.01 metres.
The 100 metres became a series of timed heats. Maples took the title with a 12.54 effort. Although frustrated by the forced changes and the diluted competition I was sympathetic to the organisers who coped with very difficult circumstances.
I did not see Maples in action on Sunday when the competition returned to normal conditions and rules. Maples took the 200m Grade 14 title with a 25.66 effort in the final.
The performance won Maples a Colgate Scholarship with funding that will prove invaluable as she rises to the challenges that lie ahead. This was a just reward for an athlete with considerable promise. Maples achieved in Auckland at the start of her second half of the season build up.
It was encouraging to see Sophie Williams running for Palmerston North taking second in both the 100 metres and 200 metres in grade 13. Williams joins Wanganui Collegiate at the end of the month in Year 9 and will likely join Maples in a strong relay combination.
As indicated earlier a busy few months lies ahead for Athletics Wanganui. Next Tuesday is the first of the weekly club nights that go on through until the start of April. A week later on January 23 the club hosts the annual Cooks Classic which doubles as a Commonwealth Games Trial in the men's 1500m, women's 5000m, sprint hurdle for men and women, men's and women's javelin, women's Long jump and men's high jump.
The Classic also features the popular "Fastest Kid on the Block" and handicap 400 metres and shot put both with substantial winner takes all prizes. The Cooks Classic is the middle of the annual series of Classic events with the first event the Capital Classic in Wellington on January 20 ending with the Potts Classic on the following Saturday. Each of the meetings combine as Commonwealth Games trials in selected events.
In February we will have a number of Palmerston North athletes at the weekly club nights as their home track is being resurfaced. On the 13th, 20th and 27th these nights double as the Manawatu/Whanganui Centre Championships.
The New Zealand Combined events Championships return to Whanganui on the 24th and 25th February.
Two years ago when we last hosted the championships we brought spectators close to the action in the infield and this popular initiative will be repeated this year. The Saturday will be a particularly busy day as the annual Wanganui Collegiate Inter-House match follows directly in the evening following the combined events during the day.
March sees the annual Whanganui Secondary Schools at Cooks Gardens on Wednesday 14th March followed a week later by the Sir Peter Snell International Track and Field Meeting at Cooks Gardens a week later.
The busy season ends with Cooks Gardens hosting the North Island Secondary Schools Championships on the 7th and 8th of April rounding off a busy start to 2018.
There will be more details of the major events in subsequent articles. The club night programme is posted on the Athletics Wanganui website www.athleticswanganui.co.nz