The Wanganui Collegiate School athletics programmes is proving a solid platform for international exchange students to find their feet.

Athletics head coach Alec McNab visiting students had a mix of sporting endeavours to choose from with all taking skills home to build on.

"At the 2016 New Zealand Schools Track and Field Championships young Chilean Francisco Claro, who was on an exchange at Wanganui Collegiate, surprised himself and his team mates by returning from his New Zealand visit with a gold medal in the junior pole vault," McNab said.

Pole vault is a difficult event and made its inclusion in 2016 as an under-16 event for the first time.


"Claro was the only entrant, but the declared opening height was above his personal best. He cleared it on his third attempt and then added two new heights to capture both the title and a new personal best with a 2.70 metre clearance."

Thirteen-year-old Juan Diego Bulnes, who was on a similar visit this year, was determined to follow in Claro's footsteps and worked hard to master the complex skills of vaulting.

"He finally cleared a height just prior to departure wearing a pair of borrowed spikes. At the championship the opening height was above this. On the third and final attempt he got so close, but his non clearance meant no medal.

"He was not alone as two of the three failed at the same height of 2.40 metres, which interestingly was 60 centimetres less than was asked for a week later at the Australian Championships with a big field of entrants.

"It is certain that the New Zealand standard will be dropped next year to help develop this exciting event. It will be too late for Bulnes, but he returns to his home in Santiago with great New Zealand memories and a desire to continue in pole vaulting and also to purchase his first pair of running spikes."

The Chilean connection did not end with Bulnes as his countryman, also from Santiago, Agustin Valdes-Zegers entered the 200metre sprint in which he reached the semi-final with a personal best 24.73 seconds.

He also joined a relay team that surprised themselves and their coach by not only reaching the final, but finishing a highly creditable fifth in that final.

"There was a real mix of athletes in that team, Valdes-Zegers, Wayne Yang, a Chinese athlete from Palmerston North, long jumper and Whanaganui rep rugby player Logan Henry, and late recruit, cricketer George Meyer," McNab said.