The Whanganui Athletics Committee met on Monday and reflected on how much the world has changed since we last met on Monday, March 2.

Three days after that Whanganui meeting in March, I was in Christchurch at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships which, unbeknown to us at the time, was the last major event of the summer.

The day before the championships I attended a long NZ Schools executive meeting in which a large part of the time was spent debating whether we should still send a team to the ISF Cross Country in April.

We decided to cancel just in time to save considerable costs and ahead of the cancellation of the event later in the month. This was also only three weeks before the life-changing lockdown.

Advertisement

The New Zealand Schools executive have met three times since March, but by video conferencing, and have been able to co-ordinate planning for the New Zealand Schools Cross Country in Hawera on September 19–20.

This is three months later than the usual date and will be a welcome return to competition for athletes.

This will be preceded by the Athletics New Zealand Cross Country in Dunedin three weeks earlier, although three weeks later than scheduled. This means that the school-aged cross country runners can aim to peak over a shorter period.

Locally we have other events to help prepare for, with Whanganui Schools Cross Country on Monday, August 17, including the Marton to Whanganui Relay and Round the Lake Relay, both in early September.

The Athletics Whanganui meeting on Monday was able to focus on a hopefully exciting and busy season ahead.

The change of date of the New Zealand Schools Championships in Tauranga (to December 11-13, a week later than scheduled) means a slightly longer period of preparation and a tidier lead-up programme with three regional meetings a fortnight apart.

These excellent league meetings start in Hastings on Saturday, October 31 and a home meeting at Cooks Gardens on November 14 with the final round in Masterton on Saturday, November 28, a fortnight before New Zealand Schools.

Club nights are scheduled to start on Tuesday, October 13. Full details will be on the club website soon.

Advertisement

The second half of the season, with the Athletics New Zealand Championships in Hastings in March, has an exciting series of major Oceania-sanctioned events combining the traditional but upgraded Area Permit Classics and the Continental Bronze Meetings in Auckland and Christchurch.

The classics include the Cooks Classic to be held at Cooks Gardens on Saturday, January 30, a week after the Potts Classic in Hastings.

The Cooks Classic is shaping as a major event and will include the reinstated New Zealand Mile Championships for men, women and juniors (under 20 men and women).

The date in later January suits Whanganui well, as does the move to the weekend from midweek which was trialled successfully this year.

Athletes have not been exempted from the many changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

I have mentioned in this column how our leading young athletes missed out on New Zealand representation in cross country in Europe and on the track in Sydney in March.

Advertisement

Others, such as club captain Travis Bayler and Tayla Brunger, had been scheduled to run at the Australian Championships in March and Bayler further missed out on the Californian tour in April and a chance to explore US university options.

Many athletes who had been intending to develop their careers on US scholarships are watching and waiting for developments and these include many current and former Whanganui athletes.

Former New Zealand Schools and junior champion Geordie Beamish completed his civil engineering degree in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona but had his final season curtailed, missing out on defending his NCAA indoor title and the summer track and field season.

He had an outstanding career in Arizona which included the indoor mile title and earning consecutive All-American honours as part of the winning Division 1 NCAA Cross Country team.

Beamish is now being coached by Dathan Ritzenheim and is based in Boulder, Colorado.
He has some exciting plans to be announced later in August.

Former New Zealand Schools captain Christian Conder is back at his university in Florida but is waiting for developments regarding both study and competition.

Advertisement

William Sinclair is waiting for clarification this week from NCAA about the resumption of competition before moving to Missouri. Liam Back is in a similar position.

They may have to delay their departure until next year. Bayler is scheduled to go in January and he, like others, will be watching developments with interest.

Providing New Zealand can remain virus-free, many leading younger athletes might add real depth to our domestic competition, including our own Cooks Classic.