All Black Beauden Barrett's impressive recent performance over the "bronco" fitness test would not surprise any who attended the 2005 New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships.

At those 2005 championships, Barrett ran for Francis Douglas Memorial College, finishing sixth in a strong Year 9 boy's field on the Whanganui Collegiate golf course circuit.

Cross country was just one of many sports that Barrett participated in while at school.

There is increasing evidence this wide involvement in a variety of activities is valuable for the young and this "generalisation" before "specialisation" in sport has considerable merit.


Cross country certainly helps in terms of aerobic endurance development for other sports.

I do remember as a rugby flanker at school in winter I found many of my middle-distance rivals at the back of the lineout.

The endurance base can be of huge value to many more than those at the back of the lineout in rugby.

Many sportsmen and women used the lock down period to build an aerobic base, as they were unable to do much else over those weeks.

I suspect some were more aerobically fit than at the same time in other years.

The Government announcement on Monday increasing group sizes from 10 to 100 is welcome news for sport, allowing some return to activities.

Following this, came a statement from Athletics New Zealand.

"From midday Friday, 29th May, gatherings can be held with up to a 100 people.


"This new limit applies to our sport, and Athletics New Zealand is excited to endorse the start of club and centre events, providing they remain within the 100- person limit and follow all of the relevant public heath guidelines."

This, of course, does not allow large gatherings including any accommodation for spectators, but it does allow a start to be made.

Lockdown, as mentioned in my column last week, set challenges regarding training that demanded adaptability and creativity.

The latest announcement demands adaptability and creativity from event organisers.

For organisers of cross country running events, the limit on numbers will make impossible the traditional large events in the present fashion with fields in excess of 100.

It will therefore demand, for example, very staggered start times until the allowable numbers increase by a Government update or a move to Level 1.

Whanganui Collegiate has announced their school cross country will be run on Wednesday, June 24, but without parents or other spectators.

The event will be streamed to allow parents to see their children in action.

There may well be changes in format to keep within the 100 starters and allow for effective streaming of the event.

The champs will be run on the Collegiate golf course, which has been the venue for over 30 years.

There may perhaps be modifications as indicated earlier to accommodate field size and streaming.

The golf course circuit has been used not only for Collegiate and St Georges cross country, but has also been the venue for Whanganui Intermediate School and on many occasions the Whanganui Secondary Schools Championships.

The course is where Barrett finished sixth in New Zealand and where Holly van Dalen finished fourth while her sister and future Olympian Lucy came 10th.

Hugo Beamish finished sixth, returning a year later to win in Tauranga.

As host school, Collegiate won three team titles on that very wet June day back in 2005.

In the next fortnight, I hope to update readers on the possible shape of the winter programme.

This will hopefully include an update of Whanganui Harrier events, the various Whanganui schools cross country's, including the Inter School event, and where Park Run sits under new guidelines.