There is a special magic about the mile at Cooks Gardens. On a still evening the track once again proved to be the place to be to be for middle distance runners last Saturday evening.
Rorey Hunter's effort became the 64th sub 4-minute mile on the track followed by Sam Tanner less than a second later. Tanner was not only comfortably inside 4 minutes (3:58.41) but ran a New Zealand under 20 and under 19 record becoming New Zealand's youngest sub 4-minute miler.
Hunter and Tanner were fulsome in their praise of the work of Collegiate 800 metre pacemaker Joseph Sinclair who took the field through the first two laps right on schedule.
Sinclair, who will be contesting the under 20 800 metres in Christchurch at the Jennian Homes NewZealand Track and Field Championships, tends to wait to make his run and the solid first lap asked for by the elite field will have been a valuable experience for the rising 800 metre runner.
The Elite 800 metres was a tremendous race with an outstanding win for Brad Mathas on his return home to Whanganui.
There was a whole raft of personal bests in one of the fastest two lap races in recent years in New Zealand. Mathas looks set for his 8th successive New Zealand title and hopes to find the qualifying time for the World Championships at either the Australian or New Zealand Championships.
The Junior Mile provided another great middle distance race.
The pace was just a little slow over the first two laps and the leaders Liam Back, Andres Hernandez and Noah MacDermid accelerated as a group through the next 600 yards. Back struck for home and looked smooth and fast over the last half lap in what proved to be a great final workout before defending his New Zealand under 18 title at the weekend.
Hernandez held off MacDermid on the home straight with a useful speed outing before his bid for a podium place in the 3000 metres at the weekend.
A couple of late defections from the women's 800 metre field took a little of the gloss from the race.
Rebecca Baker and Sarah lambert, both members of the NZ Schools Cross Country team, both stepped down a distance to take first and second scoring valuable maximum points for their Whanganui team in the match with Taranaki and Manawatu schools that provided an excellent supporting programme.
The Whanganui double in the Junior Mile was repeated when Sophie Williams again had the edge on Genna Maples in the women's 100 metre dash. Maples bounced back with a calendar year best in Long Jump with an impressive 5.60 metre effort (her lifetime second best jump). They will both be in action at the weekend in the 100 metres and relays with Maples also starting in the 200m and Long Jump in which she has been third (2017), second (2018) and is hoping to positively complete the sequence in Christchurch.
Tayla Brunger looked all class in her 400 metres producing a season's best of 56.4. Unfortunately, an electronic malfunction meant the race was hand timed. The performance would have placed Brunger second in the rankings.
Brunger knows there is better to come and is in great form as she heads south to contest the 400m and 200m. She will be joined by NZ Schools Champion and team mate Emma Osborne in the Christchurch 400m.
Nicole Bradley won the hammer just a fraction below the 60-metre mark. Earlier in the evening New Zealand 2018 Long Jump Champion Jordan Peters (Palmerston North) jumped 7.24 metres in his final hit out prior to the New Zealand Championships.
Whanganui were convincing winners of the Schools Match rounding off a good evening by winning the Swedish Relay (100m, 300m, 200m, 400m) in both the boys and girls.
In the Junior (under 16 Swedish Relay) Whanganui City were winners in the boy's section which should give confidence going into the Whanganui Secondary Schools Championships on Wednesday next week. Whanganui High School won the girls section and it was good to see two teams from St Georges taking part and soaking up the big meet atmosphere.
Whanganui has 19 athletes travelling to Christchurch to the New Zealand Championships which is the most for many years. The 16 from Whanganui Collegiate is the most ever from the school at an Athletics New Zealand Championships.
The athletes and the Centre are appreciative of the assistance given by the Lion Foundation who provided assistance towards the travel and accommodation costs to the 2019 National Track and field Championships. The subsidy has reduced costs for the team, in what has been a long season filled with extensive travel and associated costs.
Athletes return from Christchurch to Whanganui Secondary Schools next Wednesday, March.