The annual Colgate Games, New Zealand's biggest junior athletics competition, kicks off in Taranaki and Christchurch this weekend. Among the children taking part will be a large contingent of Bay of Plenty athletes.
Of the Bay of Plenty athletics clubs taking children to compete at the North Island Colgate Games in Taranaki this weekend, the largest group by far comes from Lake City Athletic Club.
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The Rotorua-based club will have 48 in attendance at the event in which a total of 1155 competitors aged 7-14 are expected.
Lake City children's convenor Kelly Albrecht said the Colgate Games experience was always one the children would never forget.
"The beauty of the Colgate Games is that anybody, no matter their level of experience or how good they are, can enter."
She said the Lake City group was made up of athletes who had been before and those competing for the first time.
"It's about half and half. I was surprised because it's so far away this year and a lot of these kids haven't been involved this year in the competitive side of athletics but it seems a lot of families are keen for the trip away together.
"I think it's word of mouth, they hear about the other competitions we've been to and the kids want to join in. Those that are new to the club this season have come to a couple of events, really enjoyed the atmosphere and they're keen to be a part of it which is exactly what we're after."
Albrecht said the Colgate Games gave athletes the opportunity to test themselves against others from all over the North Island as well as learn some valuable life lessons along the way.
"They can see how they stack up in the North Island, they can set some goals and see where they do sit in that area. They also learn to lose - some of these kids have never lost a race in their life because they've always been the fastest in our area or at school.
"It's definitely a more professional and higher level of competition. The kids basically get dropped off by their parents at the marshalling point and you don't see your child for an hour. The kids actually learn to be quite independent because they have to learn how to fuel themselves, wear sun screen, all of that stuff on their own. For a 7-year-old that's a pretty big deal."
A highlight of the event every year is the opening ceremony in which the children do a march past around the track.
"I always encourage as many of them as possible to be there for that. That's where the kids really realise this is actually a really cool event, it's professional, it's serious and everyone's cheering for them as they march around the track which gives that nice vibe and gives the kids a good lift going into competition."
The North Island Colgate Games run from Friday to Sunday while the South Island Colgate Games, being held in Christchurch, follow a week later.
2020 North Island Colgate Games
Dates: January 10–12.
Location: Jubilee Park, Inglewood, Taranaki.
Bay of Plenty participation numbers at the North Island Colgate Games
Lake City Athletic Club: 48
Bellevue Athletic Club: 28
Whakatāne A & Harrier Club: 17
Athletics Tauranga Inc: 13
Greerton Amateur Athletics Club: 8
Te Puke Athletic Club: 5
Katikati Amateur Athletic Club: 4
Waihi Amateur Athletic Club: 4
Pāpāmoa AAC: 1