After a cold wet weekend and a miserable set up in the morning the 39th Round the Lake Relay was blessed with clear sunny if cool conditions.
The sun certainly shone on the Whanganui High School Junior Girls team who broke the stranglehold of titles won by Wellington Schools.
Rebecca Baker who had performed so well at New Zealand Schools finishing 5th in the under 16 division (4th New Zealander) ran a solid opening lap in the combined senior/junior race and was right up with the senior runners.
Baker was well backed up by Renee Teers, Libby Abbott, who relishes relay races and showed a return to form, and Paris Munro. Napier Girls, last year's Year 9 winners were second and the host school Wanganui Collegiate was third.
The other two winning Whanganui schools were Whanganui Intermediate who won the boys Intermediate schools ahead of St Georges and St Annes in race with strong local interest. Wanganui Collegiate took the Junior B Grade title and Sacred Heart from New Plymouth won the Girls Intermediate Schools event from Whanganui Intermediate and St Georges.
The Wanganui Collegiate Year 9 girls' team were given the best of starts by New Zealand under 15 medal winner Ashleigh Alabaster who gave the host school a handy lead.
The other three runners Lucy Brown, Jess Johnstone and Ana Brabyn ran well but had to bow to the superior strength of a strong Wellington Girls College quartet who came close to the Year 9 record.
The Collegiate Senior girls who had taken silver in both the three and six to score team races at the New Zealand Schools in June finished behind a very impressive Wellington East Girls team.
The Wellington College Boys teams dominated the secondary schools boy's events winning all three major titles (Year 9, Junior A Boys and Senior Boys). They also took the Junior B boys for good measure. They were given strong competition from the large New Plymouth Boys contingent.
New Plymouth were defending senior boy's champions and gave the Wellington College a real battle throughout the four 2.2 Kilometre legs of the journey, New Plymouth New Zealand Secondary Schools International Chris Devaney, who had finished 6th in the Australian Schools under 20 Championship in August, gave his team a great start winning the first lap leading time prize, with a narrow victory over Collegiate rising star Liam Back.
Wellington fought back to take the title by eight seconds (28 minutes as opposed to 28:08 from their Taranaki rivals). The strength of Wellington College was clearly evident with the College filling the remaining place on the team podium.
New Plymouth were also second in the Junior Boys and Year 9 Boys with Wanganui Collegiate third In the Junior Boys Wellington College added another third place. In the Junior B Boys Whanganui High School rounded off a good day for the school by taking second with St Patrick's College Silverstream in third.
The inform Hannah O'Connor took the Bates Watchmaker Award for the fastest girl in lap 1 of Race 3 with an impressive record breaking lap of 6 minutes 34.4 seconds. This broke Holly van Dalen's record of 6m 40s set in 2006. O'Connor came within a second of the record last year and her form over the last year suggested that a new record was highly likely.
The quality of her performance was highlighted by the fact that the conditions under foot were wet and that the timed lap now starts and finishes at the Tainui Statue where races have started for the last four years as opposed the former faster straight line start on Great North Road (the previous lap was timed at the changeover zone by the Peter Pan statue).
The relay is about the team effort but the first lap award is hotly contested by leg 1 runners in both the boys and girls senior races, Over the years the record has been set by a number of talented runners who have gone on to make their mark in the sport.
Richard Potts who went on to be a successful New Zealand international held the record for over 20 years. It is now held by Matt Baxter who is carving out a successful career running for Arizona State University where he is a team mate of former Collegiate runner Geordie Beamish who holds the fourth fastest time.
Bates Watchmakers who have been associated with the race since its inception in 1978.