The Tawhero Golf Course held no surprises at the Whanganui Secondary schools Cross Country Championships last Thursday with the majority of the titles in the six grades going with the form book.
Last week in my preview I forecasted just about all the winners. I only wish I could do the same with racehorses.
Predictably Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate) led from start to finish to win the senior title carving out the 4.25km race stopping the clock in 13 minutes and 7 seconds. This was no mean feat over the soggy conditions on the excellent and demanding Tawhero course.
The outstanding New Zealand Schools international won by almost a minute from his highly promising 15-year-old team mate Zach Bellamy with William Sinclair taking the Collegiate trifecta a further 20 seconds in arrears.
Rebecca Baker (Whanganui High School) impressed in taking line honours for the second consecutive year. Last year she took the Intermediate title heading the leading senior runner. This year she held off a stern challenge from Collegiate Captain Sarah Lambert.
Lambert held a slender lead at the end of the first 1500 metre lap. Baker struck over the back undulating section of the course to win by 50 metres. Both athletes have the potential to be in the mix for a New Zealand team place at the NZ Secondary Schools Championships to be held in Taupo where the top 12 seniors gain automatic selection to compete at the Australian Schools Championships on the Sunshine Coast in August.
Sarah Mathews (Collegiate) confirmed her progress by taking third place in the senior grade crossing the line fifth in the combined race.
Ashleigh Alabaster (Wanganui Collegiate) was third across the line to take the junior title confirming her outstanding potential. Adelaide Roper (Nga Tawa) also impressed finishing second (4th across the line) with Lucy Brown (Collegiate) taking the remaining junior girl's podium position.
As previewed the absence of last year's Year 9 champion and New Zealand under 18 steeplechase medal winner George Lambert threw the Junior Boys Grade wide open.
Riley Zimmerman (Whanganui City College) grasped the opportunity to win by 20 seconds from Blair Gowan (Whanganui High School) with Thomas Pease (Collegiate) surprising in third place.
Zimmerman's time over the 4.25km was 15 minutes 44 seconds. Zimmerman, along with other top three place getters in the six grades, have automatic selection for the Whanganui 5x2000m relays to be run in Taupo the day following the New Zealand Schools Championships. They will be joined by two further athletes selected from nominated athletes.
Nat Kirk. (Whanganui High School) who had performed so well on the track, including taking the North Island Schools 800 metre title, predictably won the Year 9 boys title by 11 seconds from Harvey Meyer (Collegiate) with Elliot Jones (Collegiate) in third place.
Kirk's winning time over the 3km was 11 minutes 9 seconds.
Josephine Perkins (Collegiate) ran well to take her maiden title crossing the line in a highly creditable 10th in the combined race completing the 3km race in 12 minutes 48 seconds, 23 seconds ahead of Emma Fergusson (Nga Tawa) in second with Charlotte Baker (Whanganui High School), sister of senior winner Rebecca, taking the remaining podium place just 2 seconds behind Fergusson.
Wanganui Collegiate won all six three-to-score team titles and four of the six-to-score titles.
Collegiate was particularly strong in the Senior Boys where possibly for the first time in the event's history they took the first six places. Joseph Sinclair following his brother followed by Ben Conder and Ethan Gillespie.
Whanganui High School took the six-to-score title in the Junior Boys and also the Year 9 Girls, the former by three points from Collegiate. There was a similarly narrow three point margin in the junior three-to-score with Collegiate heading off the High School challenge.
Nga Tawa was second in the Junior Girls three-to-score and was also second in the six-to-score in the same grade.
The excellent course, last used for New Zealand Secondary Schools Championship back in 1991, proved to be an outstanding venue and Sport Whanganui and Whanganui Secondary Schools are fulsome in their praise of the venue and the management of the Tawhero Golf Course.
Entries, as reported last week, were 15 per cent up on last year and although there were some defections and a couple who did not finish the course the 155 finishers showed a similar increase.
Wanganui Collegiate and Whanganui High School provided the largest group of competitors at Tawhero and will also be well represented at New Zealand Secondary Schools.
Collegiate will enter teams in all six grades with final selection made next Wednesday after the Collegiate Championship to be held that day at 11.10am.