ANENDRA SINGH
If you pick up a copy of Hawke's Bay Today on Monday and find the names of some of the Napier Athletic Club members credited to the Hastings Athletic Club in the sports pages, don't panic.
Do not jump to conclusions either and start cursing the industrious athletics organisers, data gurus and TodaySport team for making a blunder.
While the parochialism between Napier and Hastings is well-documented, this weekend the athletics clubs in the two cities will, for the first time, function as one.
The Napier club members will compete under the banner of their rival Hastings club in the second round of the National Teams Competition at Newtown Park, in Wellington.
"There's a set requirement by Athletics New Zealand that there must be a certain number of competitors - at least 20 junior members and 20 senior members - per club," says Hastings club committee member Murray Andersen.
"There are insufficient numbers from the Napier club to enter a team in their own right so we have Athletics New Zealand's permission to include the Napier club members within the Hastings team in the league," he says.
Many student members are sitting exams at this time of the year.
"We're struggling to make numbers but we're no different from any other club at this time of the year," he says. The first round of the teams' competition was held a fortnight ago at the home of the Hastings club, Nelson Park. The next round will be staged in Wanganui in the last Saturday of this month, culminating in the final round in Wellington in March, the weekend before the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
The winning two teams from each zone - North, Central and Southern - will compete in an A grade final and the next two placed teams will pit their talents against each other in a B grade final. Hawke's Bay is in the Central Zone, which covers the area from New Plymouth through to Gisborne. Athletes from Central Hawke's Bay have traditionally joined the Hastings club under the guidance of schoolteacher Mike Fleming.
So is this the beginning of the merger of the two city clubs and should Napier logically become part of the Hastings set-up, considering it doesn't have an all-weather track?
Hastings club chairman Allan Potts, who recently clinched the Wattie's Volunteer Coach of the Year title, thinks otherwise.
"I don't necessarily believe that but, however, I think Napier should be strong in itself. They have a grass track and what the (Hastings) mayor of the time, Jeremy Dwyer, said was instead of having a separate all-weather track in Hastings it was better to have an all-weather track here (Nelson Park)," says Potts.
When Potts, who is also the president of Athletics Hawke's Bay/Gisborne and a life member of Athletics NZ, settled in the Bay in 1983 he felt the parochialism then was "very, very strong".
In the early 1970s the Hastings club became the first club in the country to put down an all-weather track. "It used to be a cheap, black track. The durable red track has more balance and bounce, but costs more - $100,000 for the black one and nearly $1 million for the red," says Potts of the current track that was laid down in 1978.
The Hastings City Council looked after both tracks but repairing the black one became increasingly unviable as athletes sometimes found themselves running on the asphalt base - that's how badly worn the black track had become.