New Zealand under-20 sprinter Georgia Hulls was clearly the athlete of round two of the Regional League meet at the weekend and helped her Hastings club narrowly head hosts Whanganui in the womens division by one point.
Hulls, who contested the world junior championships last year and is a member of the crack under-20 New Zealand record 4x100m relay team, handled the difficult conditions well to take the sprint trifecta (100m, 200m and 400m).
Hulls, however, had to battle more than the elements as she was strongly challenged in each race by young Whanganui club and New Zealand Secondary Schools internationals Genna Maples and Emma Osborne.
In the 100m, runners had to handle a swirling wind that surprisingly was slightly positive when averaged over the duration of the race. Hulls recorded an excellent 11.92s, with Maples challenging all the way down the straight.
Maples recorded a big personal best of 12.11s that not only broke her own Collegiate junior record but also propels the 14-year-old to the top of the New Zealand under-18 rankings.
The battle was even closer in the 200m, where they not only had to contend with each other but also a 4.2 metre per second head wind. Their respective times (25.25s, 25.55s) in the conditions were outstanding and bode well for the season.
In the 400m, Emma Osborne, who has won selection for the New Zealand Schools team in December, ran an outstanding personal best of 57.12s that consolidates third place in the New Zealand under-18 rankings, second among those who will compete in the junior grade at New Zealand Schools in December. Once again, Hulls was challenged the whole way.
In the male 400m, Jason Myers, who was fourth the previous week, won in the windy conditions in an excellent personal best of 50.76s. This performance was backed up by a best 200m. His 400m time puts him up to sixth in the New Zealand under-18 rankings.
It was a great day for the Maples family.
Lexi was as busy as ever, competing in the high jump, shot, hammer, javelin and both relays. Maples equalled her best in high jump (1.55m), set a Wanganui Collegiate record in the hammer (38.88m), ran well in both relays and set a season best in shot, scoring valuable points for her team.
Brother Jonathan was not to be outdone by his sisters. He set personal bests in the pole vault (2.80m) and 300m hurdles (42.13s) when he was second to Whanganui teammate Oliver OLeary (41.20s). Maples hurdles performance saw him enter the New Zealand under-18 rankings for the first time.
The in-form Liam Back faced older and more experienced runners in the 3000m. He perhaps paid a price for the very fast opening kilometre but battled through to finish third, slicing eight seconds off his best to break his own Collegiate junior record, stopping the clock at 8m 51.76s.
Decathlete Richmond Wells competed in all five events of the second day of the decathlon and added runs in both relays to complete a busy day. His javelin and hurdles were the pick of a busy afternoon.
Palmerston North moved to the top of the table, shading the hosts by five points at the weekend to hold a 41-point overall margin (391 to 349) going in to the final meeting in Masterton next weekend. Taranaki, who hosted the first round, are a further 29 points back.
The regional competition provides excellent early season competition, and the fact its seeded by ability rather than age makes the three meetings special.
The four-and-a-half hour format catering for all events places considerable pressure on officials, and the large team of volunteer officials helped by younger athletes are to be congratulated on their excellent work.
The Monday evening childrens club night has made a busy and vibrant start under the direction of Jodie Brunger, with 200 children attending. Jodie is always on the lookout for more help on Monday afternoons to further enhance the programme.
The younger children go from 4.30pm to 5.30pm, and the older children start at 6pm. Full details are on the Athletics Wanganui website.
Tuesday saw the first of the Year 9 and 10 team matches, with wins for Wanganui Collegiate School in both the boys and girls section. There were especially good performances from Ethan Cox (High School), Sophie Andrews (High School) and the Brabyn sisters in the 200m.
In the club programme, Will Stephenson set a personal best high jump (1.83m - 6 feet in imperial measure), Pati Leo threw 43.74m in the discus to climb the national rankings, and Rebecca Baker impressed in the 800m with an excellent 2m 18.37s.