Last week I highlighted the invaluable work of volunteers in sport and other sectors of New Zealand society.

On Monday I heard of the death of Fed Holmes, who was through the many years I knew him a dedicated volunteer, not only in athletics but for so many other areas in the community.

I grew to know Fred back in the early to mid-1980s when I was coaching his son Martin, a talented middle-distance runner who was then a student at Whanganui High School.

Fred, like many parents, immediately volunteered.

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Although having a background in cricket and rugby rather than athletics, he offered his help as an official and club volunteer. Unlike so many, this continued after his son left the city.

He was part of an active group of officials who travelled with the team to league and other meets and was a regular at Tuesday club nights. The group became well known beyond our city as they honed their officiating skills and became nationally graded.

Fred went on to the top of the Officials Association and was one of the New Zealand officials at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He also gave increasing service to the Athletics Wanganui committee and for many years was club chairman.

Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Whanganui has hosted three Athletics New Zealand Championships, three New Zealand Schools Championships and four North Island Schools Championships - with Fred being involved in all.

He also co-ordinated the NZ Masters Games many times. He generously came out of retirement as a favour to help with the Athletics New Zealand Combined Events in 2017, where his expertise helped us organise an outstanding event bringing spectators close to the action, which was hugely appreciated by the athletes in this demanding event.

Fred will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with the family.

The leading school cross country athletes are scheduled to be in action at the Whanganui Secondary Schools Championships to be held on the successful Whanganui Collegiate Golf Course on the new 1500-metre circuit.

The lockdown and the stages of alert levels has led to the New Zealand Championships being held on September 19 as opposed to the usual championships on the traditional third Saturday in June.

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The region's secondary schools held their own championships towards the end of last term (a shortened term 2). The additional preparation time for the championships has been welcome but at the same time Covid-19 has meant a congestion of secondary school winter codes and it will be interesting to see the effect on the championships as well as the effect of Wednesday's move to alert level 3.

New Zealand Schools representative George Lambert (Collegiate) will start as favourite in the Senior Boys. His strongest challenge will come in the shape of Whanganui High School winner Nat Kirk with Blair Gowan (High School), Ben Conder and New Zealand triathlete Hunter Gibson in the mix.

Lambert is looking for a good finish in Hawera next month, gaining further experience before his final year in 2021. Whanganui has had a strong showing in Senior Boys at New Zealand Schools winning six of the 46 senior titles in the history of the event.

Martin Holmes (High School) took two of these, the Beamish brothers Hugo and Geordie (Collegiate) won one each, Duncan Ross (Wanganui Boys College) won following successive podium places, with Liam Back (Collegiate) winning last year.

The girls are scheduled to run together over 3km and will wear colour-coded bibs. This gives runners experience of a larger start and brings runners of different grades together.

Mackenzie Morgan, who won the Collegiate Intermediate title, runs as a senior and will face opposition from High School winner Charlotte Baker and Adelaide Roper, the Nga Tawa senior champion and their junior champion) Emma Fergusson who won, High School Junior winner Chardonnay Ross Elvin and the highly promising junior Collegiate pair of Josephine Perkins and Louise Brabyn should also be near the front of the field.

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Team competition is a major part of cross country and as at the National Championships there is a three and six to score competition in both.

The girls team races could be a close and exciting affair. Nga Twa have prepared thoroughly and have even made an early trip to check the course.

They will face strong opposition from High School and Collegiate and with a strong team in Year 9 fielded by Whanganui Girls College. Collegiate is not as strong as in recent years in the younger boy's grades and will face stern opposition from High School and Cullinane in particular.