Twenty-six runners lined up for the 2km road race to open the 2019-2020 athletics season at Cooks Gardens on a cold wet and windy evening on Tuesday.

Five minutes twenty-eight seconds after the report of the new electronic gun Liam Back crossed the finish line to establish a new course record. (5:28.60)

Andres Hernandez and George Lambert in second and third also set bests with Hernandez also under the course record. Sarah Lambert set her personal best in fourth place and the leading female runner (5:36.37) three seconds shy of fellow School's International and women's course record holder Rebecca Baker who finished in fifth in the mixed race (6:42.77).

Whanganui athletics coach Alec McNab chats about the international and domestic scenes
Whanganui athletics guru Alec McNab analyses season performances before looking ahead
Whanganui Collegiate athletics coach Alec McNab hosts his 41st Round the Lake Relay
Talking athletics with Alec McNab


On such a miserable evening it was encouraging to see so many athletes participating in early season competition with a number of excellent performances in events that followed the road race.

Joseph Sinclair sprinted clear of early pacemaker Zach Bellamy in the 600m to stop the clock at 1:25.41 with Bellamy rewarded with a personal best 1;25.49 with New Zealand 6000m Road Race winner Andres Hernandez third in a smart 1:26.26.

The women's race, although a little slow over the opening 200m, picked up sharply with Tayla Brunger (1:41.91) out-sprinting Emma Osborne (1:42.30). Brunger recorded a pleasing 41.46 over 300m. Twenty minutes later Sophie Redmayne ran over hurdles (49.39) in conditions that were hard to see the barriers.

Travis Bayler won the male 300m (37.09) and backed this up with a slick 7.29 second win over 60m from Jonathan Maples and Connor Munro. Bayler who defends his New Zealand Schools 400m title is clearly in good early season shape.

Genna Maples had her best season opening long jump (5.41) with one of the two trials. Her 150m was a win by a wide margin and competed in the 60m against boys to finish second behind Nat Kirk, who had a useful under distance outing.

Maples will run faster and looks forward to the return from injury of training partner and New Zealand under-18 Champion Sophie Williams.

Seventeen Whanganui Collegiate athletes along with Jonathan Maples and Paris Munro attended a highly successful pre-season camp at Tauranga.

New Zealand Schools international Sarah Lambert was given a lactate test which confirmed her potential and ability.
New Zealand Schools international Sarah Lambert was given a lactate test which confirmed her potential and ability.

The group were fortunate to benefit from additional coaching from leading coach Kerry Hill who is resident in the Bay of Plenty. Hill provided a variety of sessions for all the athletes and gave us to access to the Adams Centre at Mount Maunganui to utilise some additional sports science support. How I wish we had such a facility in Whanganui.


New Zealand Schools international Sarah Lambert was given a lactate test which confirmed her potential and ability.

She did note that when she lasted over a final minute with the treadmill at 20km/hour that she was at a pace the world's best male runners run for 42km over the marathon.

I know a day later she watched Eliud Kipchoge run under two hours in the astounding Ineos Challenge run in Vienna.

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Although run in controlled conditions on an excellent course with world-class performances it made for compulsive viewing as he ran kilometre after kilometre with metronome precision.

Only a few hours later his fellow Kenyan Bridgit Koskei won in Chicago in 2:14.05 to break Paula Radcliffe's world 16-year-old world record by 81 seconds.

Lambert did not have long to recover from her treadmill experience when she joined her Collegiate team at the annual Rotorua Ekiden Relay the following day.

Although the team of Marseille Bowie, Josephine Perkins, Lambert, Pascale Bowie and Lucy Monckton were inexperienced and were a little slower than the team of 2018 they were the leading women's team and won the schools division.

Their time of 3 hours 5 minutes was the second fastest of the 14 Collegiate girl's teams who run the classic relay over the marathon distance.

The boy's team without the unavailable Andres Hernandez did not match last year's record effort but had the consolation of both winning the race and the schools division.

Their time was also the second fastest of the Collegiate teams attending the annual event. Lake Rotorua provides a challenging but beautiful course.

It is, however, not conducive to fast time and unlike the course that Kipchoge ran in Vienna. The Collegiate team efforts brought home the prodigious prowess of Kipchoge and Koskei.

Next week's club night includes 800m, 200m and high jump and incorporating the Whanganui Championships which is open to athletes from other schools who if they win will be presented a guest medal.

Hopefully in the spring cycle we will have a warm, still evening.