The old Lotto advert stated that "you had to be in to win it" and that was also true on Saturday at Palmerston North in the second Round of the Regional Athletic League.
With only four weeks to New Zealand Secondary Schools competition, Saturday was an important step on the journey to Dunedin.
Many would have been deterred by the atrocious weather forecast, especially athletes in Wellington who were buffeted by gale-force winds making it all too tempting to stay at home.
The Whanganui athletes set off in the falling rain, which worsened as the bus neared Palmerston North, while the threat of the winds arriving did not make the thought of competition enticing.
However, the athletes attending were able to grasp a surprising window of opportunity as the rain and the wind dropped - giving a wonderful tail wind for the opening 100m event. In fact it stayed that way up until the last hour of the four-hour programme, with the rain returning at the final event.
This window of opportunity helped a whole group of athletes to some outstanding performances. The 100m had an almost perfect 1.7-second tail wind just inside of the 2m/second limit for ranking and record purposes.
The race also provided an upset when Tayla Brunger sliced 0.4 seconds off her best time to record 12.23 seconds and send herself to the top of the under 18 rankings. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Sophie Williams showed real class in finishing second in 12.36 with race favourite Genna Maples suffering from a poor start and finishing in 12.42 seconds.
This means that the Whanganui trio of Brunger, Maples and Williams fill 1st, 2nd and 4th in the under 18 rankings.
Maples overcame her disappointment with a storming bend run to win the 200 metres into a stiff head wind (the wind having changed direction and on the rise). Maples also was part of a late relay shuffle and ran first for the first time in a team that won in a slick 50.24 seconds (Maples, Emma Osborne, Sophie Redmayne and Grace Godfrey). The 4x400m combination of Brunger, Redmayne, Godfrey and Ana Brabyn won by 120m to give Whanganui the women's relay double.
Emma Osborne impressed in the 400m, winning in a season's best of 57.22 and heading off close rival Brunger. Both are making good progress as they build towards Dunedin and the Australian All Schools in Cairns a week later.
Their efforts clearly inspired 14-year-old Ana Brabyn, who finished third running her first sub-60-second single lap, stopping the clock in 59. An hour later Brabyn stepped out again to win the 800m in a personal best time of 2:20.17. Brabyn added a further 200m best at Tuesday's club night and is a young athlete with enormous potential and is clearly one to watch.
Another youngster to watch is Ashleigh Alabaster who took almost 20 seconds off her 2000m steeplechase best to win in a time that places the 14-year-old fifth in the NZ under 18 rankings, and in the process produced a time that broke the Collegiate junior record and places her third in the Collegiate all-time list.
Another junior to shine was Lucas Martin, who took more than 40 seconds off his time a week earlier in Hastings over the 3km walk. His time of 16:17 was inside the Collegiate junior record standard, a real boost to this hard-working Year 9 race walker.
It was a great day for the Sinclair family. William, who has had a spell out with a head cold, won the 1500m in a good season opener of 4:06.15 and backed this up with personal best winning the 3000m in a race in which the steeplechase winner and training partner Liam Back did all the pacing into the strengthening wind. Sinclair sliced a further 11seconds off this time with an outstanding 8:36.73 at Tuesday's club night.
William's brother Joseph may not have won the 800m, possibly striking too far out with 200 metres to go into the wind, but he was rewarded with a two-second personal best, clocking 1:55.16 to climb the rankings to second behind the Wanganui Collegiate Schools International Liam Back. Joseph Sinclair earlier in the month had a narrow win over Jakob Moorhouse (High School) in 400m and will run in the 800m and 300m hurdles at North Island.
The Munro family also made a good contribution to Whanganui's stranglehold at the top of the club competition. Connor won the 110m hurdle and pole vault but was unfortunately disqualified for a break in the 300m hurdles but was allowed to run and looked good over the sticks.
Sister Paris won her 80m hurdle and improved further at club night, stopping the clock at 12.3 (hand timed) for her first sub-13-second effort. Paris ran well in the 300m hurdle and set a personal best in the long jump.
The final Regional League is in Wellington on November 17, where Whanganui will attempt a clean sweep of wins