It was good to see former Cullinane and Whanganui athlete Brad Mathas included in the 15-strong Commonwealth Games New Zealand athletic team named last week for the games on the Queensland Gold Coast in April.
Mathas gained a B qualifying mark and as this would be his first major games, so has wisely been included in the team.
Mathas has won six consecutive New Zealand men's 800 metre titles, the early ones while still in Whanganui competing for Manawatu/Whanganui.
Mathas is now based in Melbourne and is producing consistency of performance culminating in setting a personal best in Canberra stopping the clock at 1.46.44 seconds.
There is a real mixture of experience and newer faces in the team led by Dame Valerie Adams, although has not competed since the Rio Olympics and has in the interim had her first child. She will, providing she competes at the NZ Championships in Hamilton early next month, gain a place in the team to the Gold Coast.
Nick Willis is in a race against time recovering from a stress injury. Willis who has won two Olympic medals and competed in a record three Olympic 1500 metre finals will, if he makes it to the Gold Coast, provide experience and inspiration to the team. There may be some additions to the team in the next few weeks.
Although it was disappointing that a minority of the team competed in our trials with the others receiving dispensation as overseas based athletes or for designated overseas competition, or injury.
The flexibility provided by Athletics New Zealand High Performance Department has been welcomed by athletes as they prepare for the April Commonwealth Games.
One of those younger members of the team Ben Langton-Burnell won the Trial Javelin at Cooks Gardens and although now Hamilton-based still regards himself as a Manawatu/Whanganui athlete. He follows in the footsteps of Stuart Farquhar and is also coached by Debbie Strange in Hamilton. Langton-Burnell is a welcome addition to the team.
Closer to home athletes are moving into gear for the challenges ahead. Twenty-one athletes will be competing at the Porritt Classic in Hamilton this weekend. Most will be competing in the school team events (The Willis 1500m relays) and the team 1500m for both boys and girls. Some of the group will also be competing in the open events at the meeting.
Lexi Maples, who competes in the New Zealand Heptathlon at Cooks Gardens on the 24th and 25th of this month will compete in Shot, 100m Hurdles and Javelin in Hamilton as well as the Hammer. The Hammer is not part of the Heptathlon, but is an event that the versatile Maples has made great progress in.
Tayla Brunger has had an outstanding week running an impressive electronically-timed 300m in 40.98 at a House event on Monday (her second fastest ever) and backed this up with wins over 100m and 200m at club night with respective 12.86 and 25.66 performances into a stiff head wind.
Brunger will anchor the Collegiate relay in Hamilton and will also run in the open 200m.
The 600m proved to be an outstanding race with five runners running under 1 minute 30 seconds and although that does not equate exactly to sub 2 minute 800 metre performances, it does bode well. I can't remember five runners reaching the mark in the same race in recent years.
Oliver O'Leary, who watched his Collegiate under-16 800m record broken by Liam Back in October, reveresed the result on Tuesday from some distance behind Back with a personal best 1:25.04. Back also produced a best of 1:25.63 with William Sinclair, Zach Bellamy and Travis Bayler all recording excellent sub 1 minute 30 second efforts.
Mia Treadwell-Burke, who has joined Wanganui Collegiate in Year 12, impressed with her debut win in the girls division in 1:44.63, marginally slower than Rebecca Baker who chose to run in the male race. We can look forward to some good racing between the two of them as the summer unfolds.
Next week's club night at Cooks Gardens doubles as the first week of the Manawatu/Wanganui Centre Championships with a slightly earlier start at 6.45pm. Local athletes will relish the opportunity to compete with athletes beyond the city.