It is now 12 days since New Zealand Secondary Schools and two long journeys, including the long flight to Scotland, has given me time to reflect on the 2019 Championships in Timaru.
Strangely the 25-hour flight from Auckland to Glasgow via Dubai was identical in hours to the Collegiate team's trip back from Timaru by road and ferry with an overnight stay in Wellington.
Certainly, the venue meant the number of entries were slightly down on those in Taupo in 2018. Nevertheless, there were just over 800 running from 137 schools making it a true national event.
Whanganui had representatives from four Whanganui Schools, which means we were statistically slightly better represented than the national average. However, Collegiate with the second largest team in the country with 31 runners and Whanganui High School who took 12, provided 43 out of the 46 athletes from Whanganui competing.
As mentioned earlier, the cost and distance almost certainly prevented many making the journey. I know that Whanganui High School had to limit their team to 12 as they had 12 seats on the direct Wellington to Timaru flight.
The Collegiate group, which included Paige Cromarty from Whanganui Girls College and Adelaide Roper and Emma Ferguson from Nga Tawa, had limited seats on their transport.
Next year's championships are in Hawera which gives a wonderful opportunity for a much larger group of Whanganui athletes.
I must confess to being a little surprised when I was doing the lane draws for Timaru how many schools had just one or two runners in a grade. One is understandable but fielding only two denies those athletes of competing in a team. As I said in my preview many of those 800 athletes are there because they are part of a team.
As reported last week, Collegiate won four team medals - gold in the junior girls 3 and 6 to score and two silvers in the senior boys in both 3 and 6 to score backed up two fourth places in the six to score junior boys and senior girls six to score.
The success in teams meant that 12 athletes mounted the podium with six making repeat visits.
Although the Whanganui High School Year 9 boys team of George Davey, Levi Hoekstra and Charlie Meredith finished down the order the team showed huge potential in winning at Whanganui Schools and the experience gained will stand them in good stead at the near home venue in Hawera next June.
The Regional Relays provided an additional opportunity for team representation and Whanganui grasped the opportunity by taking bronze in both the Senior Boys and the Junior Girls.
The former gave the Whanganui High School 800 metre runners Travis Bayler and Karl Loebe an opportunity which they firmly grasped and added to Whanganui's impressive numbers on the podium.
In the Junior Girls Emma Ferguson (Nga Tawa) joined a quartet from Collegiate who had won team golds on the previous day. Ferguson had finished a highly creditable 20th a day earlier and was rewarded with a bronze medal from the relay. Ferguson is a talented allrounder and her success as part of the team and individually should provide real incentive to continue her running career.
Rebecca Baker (High School) ran well in the Senior Team that finished 5th but did mount the podium as a top 10 finisher following her 8th position on the previous day and along with Liam Back, Andres Hernandez and Sarah Lambert were named in the New Zealand team to Australia, the last three also gained the honour of being in the paper team that also receives funding.
The championships and being part of a team inevitably brings a new athlete to prominence. Three years ago in Rotorua Sarah Lambert was added as a late replacement on the eve of departure for an injured Sophie Redmayne as part of a Junior Collegiate team. Lambert was well down the order but being in a team fired her ambition.
Two years later in Taupo (2018) Lambert finished 5th and won a place in the New Zealand Schools Team. Lambert was 4th this year and wins her second black singlet, a clear illustration what being in a team and solid application can provide.
This year's new face was Year 10 Collegiate athlete Lucy Monckton who first came to my notice by finishing 6th on the eve of selection in the Collegiate Junior Girls Championship. Monckton had been injured in Year 9 and did not even run at Whanganui Schools six day's before the Collegiate event.
Monckton grasped the opportunity and finished 45th in the Junior Girls winning a gold medal in the six to score team. Monckton is made of the right stuff and has the perfect role model in Head Girl, Cross Country Captain and fellow Godwin House girl Sarah Lambert to kick start her running career.