After the 38 degrees in Madrid it was good to touch down to a sunny and cooler day in Auckland. It will be good to catch up with athletes and be able to share in the final preparation for New Zealand and Australian Cross Country Championships and begin the build-up for track athletes.

The four Collegiate athletes in the New Zealand Schools team had good workouts in three different Centre Championships.

Liam Back won the Wellington under 20 championships at Grenada after what he described as a tough race. The Lambert family had a good day at the MWA Championships in Feilding with Sarah winning the under 20 championship and her brother George second in the under 18s.

Andres Hernandez finished third in the Canterbury under 18s. He was a little disappointed with his run after some outstanding training earlier in the week. He will not have to face 2 degrees and heavy mud in Wollongong at the Australian Championships at the end of August.

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I also received the good news that Rebecca Baker will be travelling to Australia with the team. Baker had a great run last year on the Sunshine Coast. This means that Whanganui is providing five of the twenty-four strong team as well as both the boys and girls team captains ( Andres Hernandez and Sarah Lambert).

Funerals and weddings are often a time to meet old friends and acquaintances. The latter being the joyous occasion.

Former Collegiate athletics captain Josh van Dalen's wedding in Madrid was both outstanding and joyous. It was wonderful to meet so many athletes I had coached while at school and reminded me how so many different types of athletes make up a team in an athletics programme.

Josh van Dalen was a most promising athlete himself and for a time held the Whanganui Collegiate School under 16 800 metre record with a sub 2-minute effort. He also won a medal at New Zealand Schools over 3000 metres and was in the Collegiate team that was selected to run as a school to run for New Zealand in the Czech Republic in 2008.

In the New Zealand Schools Cross Country as a Junior he got caught up at the start on fencing and was left stranded at the back of the field. He fought back to come 10th with a typically gutsy performance producing a time that would have brought him a silver medal.

This was the start of mishaps and injuries that meant he was never able to reach his full potential although he retains an interest and passion for the sport.

His sisters Holly and Lucy went on to track scholarships in the USA after making startling progress while at school from humble beginnings. Lucy went on to two Olympic Games (London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016) while Holly had a series of unfortunate injuries late in her successful time at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Holly has returned to Whanganui and I believe can provide valuable mentoring to leading younger athletes.

I met former Collegiate runner Alex Wallace whose career developed after leaving school under the excellent coaching of Tony Rogers who was able to bring out the best in Alex as he physically matured.

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Wallace went on to track scholarship and has remained working successfully in the corporate world in Boston. Wallace was able to provide valuable current information on the current College scene in the USA and will be a valuable contact.

Another former cricketing athlete Declan McKeefry is also based in the USA in New York.

At school he was a successful 1st XI and representative cricketer but expressed in Madrid how much he had appreciated the chance he had to compete in the athletic team notably in the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships at Cooks Gardens in 2007 when the team took bronze in the senior 4 x 400 when less than a second separated the medallists. Athletics does provide fitness aspects important in so many sports.

I sat at a table with the Mellsop family. Unfortunately, Caroline who ran at the world Junior Championships was unable to attend. Her brother David was there and I reflected on how he represented the many athletes, who although not outstanding, applied themselves and became successful and valued team members. David was a promising steeplechaser but in his final New Zealand schools nationals concentrated on Road Race to contribute as a key member of the Road Race Team.

The family have run in Parkrun (world movement of events run in parks) through New Zealand and beyond and we discussed the desire to establish one in Whanganui; more hopefully in a later article.

It is good to be back and much to look forward to with the close of the winter season and an exciting track and field season ahead.