The Whanganui Secondary Schools Championships invariably produces some new faces at the start of their athletic careers.

This year the annual event became the first athletic event to be cancelled by Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand. The younger athletes, especially Year 9s, will have to wait until October to make their mark.

There were, however, three new faces who did make their mark on the Whanganui scene this season after joining their Whanganui schools as older students. All three have made an impact and have climbed the club's rankings.

Kyra Engel arrived at Whanganui High School as a German exchange student following in the footsteps of Karl Loebe last year. Engel added quality and depth to a strong group of national class sprinters who will feature in a later review of the season next week.

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Engel finished third in 150m rankings, fourth in the 200m and 100m. She set her best time for 200m at the New Zealand Championships in Christchurch in 26.51 and her best 100m was set at the New Zealand Schools in December (12.80).

Aria Carroll made her first contact with Whanganui in January 2019 when she was part of an Aspiring Athletes on tour and competing at both the 2019 Cooks and Capital Classics.

Aria Carroll in action at the Whanganui Collegiate Inter House Match.
Aria Carroll in action at the Whanganui Collegiate Inter House Match.

Carroll finished fourth in the Senior Girls 100m at New Zealand Secondary Schools in December when competing for Christchurch Girls High School. Carroll joined Whanganui Collegiate School as a Year 13 student at the start of this year and like Engel joined a strong crop of sprinters at club night sprints from 60m through to 200m.

She struggled with injury problems, finishing at the tail in the under 20 100m final. There was some concern that she might not be able to run in the strong 4 x 100m combination in the final slated for the day after the 100m.

Carroll confirmed she would be able to run and after an extended warm up ran the third leg for the all Whanganui Collegiate team running as Manawatū/Whanganui Centre.

Tayla Brunger ran the first leg, handing over to 400/800m specialist Emma Osborne. Carroll ran a great bend on the third leg holding her position with a strong performance.
This was followed by another outstanding change to Genna Maples to run the anchor leg. The team took gold and a Whanganui Collegiate senior record 48.22 seconds.

This was Carroll's last run of the season with the cancellation of both Whanganui and North Island Secondary Schools contests. Carroll, like others, can prepare over winter with new purpose and confidence following her relay run.

The third of the new girls was Mackenzie Morgan who joined Whanganui Collegiate School in Year 12 having attended Wellington East Girls' College.

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Morgan had run for the winning Wellington East team at Round the Lake Relay last September and had previously run on the track with mixed results. She quickly made her mark with a series of steadily improving performances.

Morgan was first Collegiate runner home in the 1500m team race at the Porritt Classic with Collegiate narrowly losing to her former College. Morgan matched the time four days later in finishing second to the national class Kara McDermid (Palmerston North) at the Centre Championships.

A week earlier she stepped down a distance to 800m, finishing third behind McDermid and Rebecca Baker in a then personal best 2:21.15. Morgan improved in both by setting a new bests over 800m at the Capital Classic (2:20.54) and a new best at the NZ 1500m Championships in finishing ninth in her championship debut (4:53.43) backed up by a personal best and seventh position in the under 18 3000m (10:53.90).

Morgan was one of six athletes to win a Whanganui Schools title when she won the girls Steeplechase (one of six events held at club night six days prior to the calendared but cancelled Whanganui Schools Championships).

This was her debut over barriers and her performance of 7:44.36 not only took the title but went straight to number four in the New Zealand rankings.