Whanganui supplied more than 28 per cent of the athletes selected in the New Zealand Secondary Schools paper team announced in Taupo after the NZSS Cross Country at the weekend.

The four athletes as reported in Tuesday's Wanganui Chronicle were Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate School), Rebecca Baker (Whanganui High School), Sarah Lambert (Collegiate) and Zach Bellamy (Collegiate).

Membership of the 14-strong paper team allows athletes to apply for funding support for overseas travel to approved international competition. This could include travel as part of the New Zealand Schools team to the Australian Championships on the Sunshine Coast in August to which the leading 12 boys and girls in the senior races in Taupo have been invited.

Liam Back, who was in the New Zealand Schools Team to the ISF World Schools in Paris in April (where he finished 15th), wins his second New Zealand singlet. Back finished second on the demanding Spa Park course at the weekend after an epic race with Sam Tanner (Bethlehem College).


At the half way stage of the 6000-metre senior boy's race Tanner, Back and Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake) had opened a gap on the field. Over the next 2.4km each tried to open a decisive break over the hilly back section of Spa Park. With just over 500m to run Tanner made his break to win by 50m with McIntyre a similar distance behind Back for third place.

Tanner, in his final year at school, retained his title and had taken the silver medal in Paris at the World event in April. Tanner is now in Europe preparing for the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Finland over 1500m.

The senior girl's race was won by regular Taranaki visitor to Cooks Gardens Hannah O'Connor (Sacred Heart College New Plymouth) who further confirmed her domination of girl's middle distance running with a masterful display of front running.

Rebecca Baker, who had finished 5th in the junior division last year (4th New Zealander), ran outstandingly to finish 4th in the strong senior field adding cross country success to her North Island Schools track titles.

Sarah Lambert ran the race of her life to finish 5th only six seconds behind Baker. The performance was just reward for the hard working Year 12 Collegiate athlete who a year ago was back in 29th position.

Zach Bellamy was the other Whanganui athlete named in the team following his outstanding 7th position in his senior debut. The promising Year 11 athlete relished the hilly conditions moving up the field over the second 3000m lap. He is the real bolter in the team and could be on the threshold of an exciting career in the sport with Australia providing a great development opportunity.

Nat Kirk (WHS) confirmed his promise finishing 5th in the Year 9 boys race and joining team mate Murray Morgan and the Collegiate trio of Harvey Meyer, Elliot Jones and triathlon champion Hunter Gibson to finish 3rd in the Regional Relays in the division the following day.

The Collegiate trio had finished a highly creditable 6th in the 3-to-score team race in a strong field of 19 schools.

Ashleigh Alabaster (Collegiate) was the other Whanganui top 10 runner finishing 6th in the Junior Girls and earning her a top 10 diploma. Alabaster headed her team to bronze in the 3-to-score team event.

The Collegiate team went one better in the six-to-score finishing just three points behind St Cuthbert's College. The St Cuthbert's team had finished 3rd in the school division of the ISF World Schools in April.

Alabaster was followed by Ana Brabyn (returning from injury in 12th place) and further supported by Josephine Perkins, complete with arm in plaster (33rd). Maddison Gray (35th), Lucy Brown (40th) and Marguerite Hazelhurst (55th).

The Wanganui Collegiate senior girls went one better than the junior team by taking the team silver medal in both the 3 and 6-to-score division repeating similar success in 2017.

Lambert was followed by 400m New Zealand Schools junior champion, Emma Osborne (27th) Marseille Bowie (29th), Caitlyn Albaster (48th), Sarah Mathews (50th) and Sophie Redmayne (78th).

The fifth Whanganui team to mount the podium was the Collegiate senior boys 3-to-score team of Liam Back (2nd), Zach Bellamy (7th) and William Sinclair (25th). Westlake Boys High School also had five podium teams which included three winning teams to be the leading school in Taupo.

St Cuthbert's had four podium teams and shaded Collegiate's four girl's teams to be the leading Girls School with Collegiate the top co-ed school in terms of team medals.

The enduring highlight of the weekend remains the remarkable four Whanganui athletes out of 14 in the New Zealand team.