The Whanganui Secondary Schools athletic team made history at the North Island Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships in Tauranga at the weekend returning with the most podium places won by any previous travelling team to the championships.
The 13 titles, 11 seconds and five thirds were a couple of places short of the home total at the championships at Cooks Gardens last year.
However, this was by far the most successful travelling team. But for the absence of New Zealand champions Liam Back and Emma Osborne, and Rebecca Baker battling sickness, the team would have been even more successful. What was even more impressive was the quality of performance of Whanganui athletes.
Whanganui's female sprinters were outstanding. Tayla Brunger won all three senior girls sprints in impressive form. In the 100 metres she equalled her personal best to run 12.23 seconds winning by a wide margin. She repeated both the win and the wide margin in the 200 metres to run under 25 seconds for the first time in a wind assisted 24.96 seconds.
Earlier she won the 400 metres by half a second stopping the clock at 56.53 seconds.
Brunger ran the first leg in both winning relay teams. In the 4 x 100 metres she joined Sophie Redmayne, Sophie Williams and Genna Maples winning in 48.36 which also broke the Collegiate record. In the 4 x 400 team of Brunger, Ana Brabyn, Redmayne and Maples won by the length of the straight.
Sophie Williams had a memorable meeting and, in the process, learned much about wind readings. On Saturday she was 1.7 seconds inside the North Island Intermediate Girls record winning in a hugely impressive 11.83 seconds. The wind, however, was 2.1 metres/second in her favour just 0.1 seconds over the allowable limit.
Her luck changed in the 200 metres when she had the perfect following wind of 2.0 m/s.to take the record with 24.25 seconds. Collegiate team-mate Genna Maples ran a personal best for second 24.63 (also inside the old record). Maples also ran a personal best for second in the 100 metres but gained consolation in the Long Jump with a North Island record of 5.82 metres.
As predicted in last week's article Whanganui athletes gained considerable success in 800 metres.
Joseph Sinclair took gold in the Senior race. Travis Bayler was third in a blanket finish. Sinclair was helped by team mate Zach Bellamy (6th) who injected pace when it was needed most. Bayler and Sinclair combined with Connor Munro and Jacob Moorhouse to take second in the 4 x 400m.
Ana Brabyn finished second in both the Intermediate 800 metres and 400 metres with personal bests in both, the former in a Collegiate junior record (2:14.09). Karl Loebe came so close in the Intermediate Boys finishing second with another personal best 1:57.10 with another qualifying time for his native German Championships in July. Loebe joined with his Whanganui High School team mates Nathaniel Kirk and Vincent Ye and Tadgh O'Connor (Cullinane) to finish third in the 4 x 400m under 16 race.
Whanganui hurdlers also had a successful championship. Sophie Redmayne took a whole second off her best to win the 300 metres hurdles (45.46) and added a third place in the 100 metre hurdles. In the boys 300 metre hurdles Joseph Sinclair took second with Connor Munro third. Munro also was third in the 110 metre hurdles and was the winner of the Pole Vault equalling his personal best of 3.20 metres while, Maggie Jones ran well to take second in the Intermediate Girls 80 metre hurdles showing excellent form.
Whanganui had double winners over the Steeplechase barriers. Andres Hernandez who had finished third in the 3000 metres on Day 1 won the Steeples on Day 2 by a wide margin. Ashleigh Alabaster was second across the line in the combined senior and under 16 steeples but was winner of the under 16-grade with team mate Josephine Perkins second. George Lambert rounded off a successful day over the barriers by running a personal best to finish third in the under 16 race (6:23.39).
Rebecca Baker, who had been sick, wisely pulled out of the 3000 metres on Day 1 leaving Sarah Lambert to carry the Whanganui colours. Lambert finished 5th but had the reward of a 15 second personal best (10:25.99). Baker did well to make the 1500m start line on the following day and was rewarded with a gutsy second place (4:47.77) while earlier on the second day 14-year-old Lucas Martin continued to enhance his growing CV with a second place in the Open Boys 3000m walk.
Whanganui athletes should be encouraged by, not only the high number of places, but by the level and depth of performances with records and many personal bests both from the placegetters and other athletes who will have gained huge confidence from their weekend performances.