There was so much more to celebrate after the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships in Dunedin at the weekend than the impressive nine Whanganui gold medals reported on yesterday in the Chronicle.
Rebecca Baker (high School) enhanced her growing middle-distance reputation by winning two medals in her first year in the senior ranks. In April on her home Cooks Gardens track Baker won the 1500m/3000m double in the Intermediate grade.
At the weekend at the Caledonian Ground Baker gave senior girl athlete of the meet Hannah O'Connor her hardest race of the three O'Connor wins with a tenacious effort over 1500m. Baker's time of was impressive in windy conditions.
Baker on the first day of the three day championships secured bronze in the 3000m with her first sub 19 minute effort (9:58.51).
Another Whanganui middle distance runner took two medals in distance events. Ashleigh Alabaster (Collegiate) won bronze in the junior 3000m after bravely holding on to the breakaway group of three. The determination to hold on earned Alabaster her maiden national individual medal.
Two days later Alabaster added silver in the junior 2000m steeplechase. Alabaster did not run in the road race earlier in the day to save herself for the afternoon run over the barriers. In her absence her Collegiate team secured team bronze in the three to score team race. The team was Josephine Perkins, Jessica Johnstone and Scarlett Blackburn.
This team silver was matched by the Collegiate senior girls with Marseille Bowie producing her best run in 7th followed by Sarah Lambert (who two days earlier had finished 8th in the 3000m) and Sarah Mathews in 17th. Mathews continues to be that vital third scorer in successful teams.
Back on the track Year 9 Sophie Williams was in outstanding form for a 14-year-old in an under 16 event by taking silver behind team mate Genna Maples and added bronze over 200m in the Maples won race. Williams also ran in the record breaking 4 x 100 team and took gold in the successful Collegiate 4 x 400 team.
Team running was very much to the fore with outstanding Whanganui efforts in relays.
The Collegiate girls were one short of a clean sweep in the relays winning three titles, two with New Zealand Schools records. The senior 4 x 100 team of Tayla Brunger, Emma Osborne, Sophie Redmayne and Grace Godfrey had to settle for silver running slightly slower than their winning heat. A slight falter in the usually very reliable final change possibly cost the team victory.
As I have said many times in the column relays enhance an athletic programme and Whanganui High School should be delighted with their relay efforts. All four teams made finals and winning three medals was outstanding especially the brace of Senior medals (silver 4 x 400 and bronze 4 x 100), the other medal coming in the junior boys 4 x 400.
The High School senior 4 x 100 team of Travis Bayler, Ethan Cox, Jonathan Maples and Connor Munro improved both in time and position coming from 4th in their heat to the silver medal running 44.14 half a second faster than their qualifying effort.
Earlier in the meet Jonathan Maples just missed a medal finishing 4th in the 300m hurdles running under 40 seconds for the first time (39.36). Munro, who returns next year, was 6th in the same final also with a best time. The 4 x 400 team went one better finishing second with three of the same runners and Jakob Moorhouse replacing Ethan Cox.
The Junior 4 x 400 High School team ran superbly for second. The team of Nathaniel Kirk, Flynn Johnstone, Vincent Ye and Karl Loebe stopped the clock in an impressive 3:41.01, outstanding for such an inexperienced quartet. Karl Loebe on exchange from Germany is an outstanding decathlon prospect with a somatotype like so many of the great German decathletes. He proved his versatility by finishing 4th in the junior pole vault and 300m hurdles and was 7th in the 800m.
The bravest performance of the Meeting came from Sophie Redmayne (Collegiate) who fell heavily at the first hurdle picked herself off the track and chased the field to finish 3rd to only miss the final by 1/10 of a second in an effort that won the admiration of the crowd.
Although bitterly disappointed Redmayne ran for silver in the 4 x 100 and took gold in the 4 x 400 with a NZ Schools record.