Christmas and New Year are a time of looking back and of looking forward.
Part of my looking back is analysing the recent New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships held at the start of this month.
To date I have looked at the track and field section in detail (excluding para athletes, which I will look at in the days ahead) and started the work on the road race. The results have yet to be fully checked but do give a good picture of the track and field section.
There were 208 schools who sent over 1300 athletes to the championships. Of these schools 87 won at least one track and field medal.
Wanganui Collegiate won their best total of 16 on the track (8 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze). Auckland Grammar School won 11 (6 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze) they, however, took a further 4 gold medals in the para events from one athlete.
I note that as a single sex school only half the events are available to AGS. I also note that on the August school roll figures they had 2501 students as opposed to Collegiate's 430.
There were a group of schools on six medals in track and field including Whanganui High School which highlights their rapid improvement in the sport.
Although on a traditional medal table they would fall behind fellow six medal school Wellington College (2 golds as opposed to High Schools one from Travis Bayler) and would also for the same reason drop behind a further 12 schools with more gold medals on actual medals won they would have been fourth equal.
This was a highly creditable performance and along with Collegiate illustrates the strength of Athletics Whanganui and the club night programmes and the sterling work done in the Junior Club as preparation for Secondary School.
We can certainly look back on a successful year starting with the two Classic meets (our own Cooks Classic and the Capital Classic as the Newtown track that was being resurfaced was not was ready).
The club also successfully organised the New Zealand Combined Events and a highly successful North Island Schools which brought over 800 athletes to Cooks Gardens and provided a record medal haul for Whanganui Secondary Schools athletes.
In the winter Whanganui supplied three of the 21 strong New Zealand Schools Cross Country team to Australia and four of the 16 who were in the recent NZSS team to Cairns for track and field.
Five athletes, Joseph Sinclair, Genna Maples, Emma Osborne (Collegiate) and Travis Bayler and Rebecca Baker (High School), were named in the NZ paper team, a further indication of Whanganui strength in the sport.
I am taking the risky business of attempting to name athletes of the year in each of the major disciplines. There is little doubt about the female middle distance runner of the year. Rebecca Baker (High School) won silver and bronze respectively at the NZSS Championships (1500m and 3000m), performed with distinction in Australia in cross country (4th).
Ashleigh Alabaster showed promise with a bronze and silver in the junior ranks while fellow Collegiate runner Sarah Lambert excelled in winter and was in the same NZSS team as Baker in Australia.
Liam Back may have run into injury problems at the end of the year finishing a modest 5th at NZSS in his non-specialist 800m and forced to withdraw from the 3000m after running in pain over 1500m in Cairns. He did, however, finish second in the NZSS Cross Country and won three titles at the Athletics New Zealand Championships in March over 1500m, 3000m and 1500m Steeplechase in Hamilton.
His Collegiate team mate Joseph Sinclair took silver in the senior 800m in Dunedin with an impressive 1:54.33 while brother William Sinclair ran in three NZ Schools finals.
We have not shown our usual strength in throws. Sophie Andrews is a first-year senior and gets my nod as the female thrower, while Pati Leo was the leading male thrower and although he did not have a good New Zealand Schools where he never really mastered the windy conditions, he was a prolific point gatherer for the winning Whanganui team in the three Regional League meetings.
I will continue the review next week when I look at jumps, hurdles and relays.
As we look ahead to 2019 it is a timely reminder that February sees the return of the NZ Masters with the athletics section from February 2-4. Entries per event are just $10. Medals awarded in every grade. Entries to athletics close January 20, 2019.
Relays 2x100m are being held on our club night February 4, 2019 where participation is welcome. There is also a chance for masters to run a mile at Cooks Gardens, on Saturday, February 2, 2019.