The combination of school events, large fields, sharing a meeting with leading athletes and wonderful weather combined to make the Porritt Classic in Hamilton a special event for Whanganui athletes.
Whanganui Collegiate athletes made the long journey north with two trophies won in 2018 and returned with three.
Whanganui High School, at their first Porritt for some years, came within a whisker of winning the fourth school trophy on offer only losing to Auckland Grammar in the Willis Relay over 1500 metres by a metre.
The Girl's Willis trophy was the first trophy up for grabs and was retained by Collegiate virtually unopposed unlike the Dianne Rodger Trophy for Girls 1500 metres where there were 30 starters.
High School did not have a team in the three-to-score event but did have Rebecca Baker challenging for the individual title. Baker had to settle for second in 4:47.51. The early pace was slow but picked up mid race but by then the chance of fast times was gone.
Sarah Lambert had hoped to run under 4 minutes 50 for the first time but had to settle for a personal best 4:51.47. Lambert, like Baker, rued the slow early pace. Lambert was supported by Ashleigh Alabaster and Ana Brabyn to win the team trophy for a record ninth time.
Baker demonstrated that she is coming into form by winning the women's section of the Manawatu/Whanganui Centre Championships on Tuesday over 3000 metres with a highly creditable 10:07.43 for the 7 ½ laps.
The boy's teams 1500m race did not suffer from a similar slow pace with Joseph Sinclair racing straight to the front soon to be overhauled by Andres Hernandez who went through the first lap in a very fast 60 seconds. Hernandez held his lead but possibly paid the price for this early pace finishing at just over 4 minutes 4:01.81 to win. This was nevertheless a five second best.
Liam Back stormed home completing the final 200 metres in 27 seconds to record a confidence lifting 4:04.64. Zach Bellamy in was the third scorer ensuring the Collegiate retained the Dick Quax trophy. In a huge field of 39 starters six of the nine Collegiate runners set personal bests.
The Whanganui High School contingent of Travis Bayler, Nat Kirk and Karl Loeb running as a team for the first time had solid performances.
The main protagonists were in action on Tuesday at the MWA Championships at Cooks Gardens in the feature 800 metres. Liam Back made the break with 300 metres remaining of the two-lap journey to come home in a confidence lifting 1:56.15.
Joseph Sinclair was caught by the break but still ran a pleasing 1:57.87 with Zach Bellamy taking third with his first sub 2-minute effort (1:59.80). Andres Hernandez finished 4th with a personal best but frustratingly just over 2 minutes (2:00.74).
In Hamilton Whanganui sprinters had a good day. Genna Maples and Sophie Williams won a place in the 100 metres women's final from the strong four qualifying heats. Maples took 5th with Williams close behind her in 6th (12.38, 12.39) respectively. They had another close battle on Tuesday over 200 metres in the Centre Championships for first and second with Maples again prevailing.
Tayla Brunger set a personal best over 200 metres in Hamilton (25.42) winning her seeded heat impressively. It is a pity that she was not in the A heat as she finished 5th overall only a fraction of a second behind third and fourth from the A heat that was run in considerably more favourable conditions.
Emma Osborne stepped back onto the track only an hour after anchoring her Collegiate A Team over 400 metres to victory in the Willis Relay to finish third in the women's 400 metres. Osborne fought well up the home straight to finish third recording a calendar best of 56.96.
Connor Munro also took third in an open event in the 400 metre hurdles. Munro demonstrated considerable potential completing the arduous event in 57.64 seconds.
Munro highlighted his improved hurdle technique in winning the Centre Championship 110 metre hurdles on Tuesday evening. Munro's sister Paris also showed good technique in both Hamilton and at Cooks Gardens on Tuesday. Although finishing third in Hamilton there was a strong indication of better to come. Likewise, Sophie Redmayne is on the cusp of strong hurdle performances.
The MWA Championships continue in Palmerston North over the next two Tuesdays. Next week sees the more specialist hammer, steeples and long hurdles with the balance of events in a large programme at the end of the month.