Former Whanganui Collegiate middle distance New Zealand champion Geordie Beamish has to decide whether to let Covid-19 end his American varsity career early or come back for one more go with the Olympics and a professional career looming.

The Havelock North –born former Collegiate old boy, who was named Whanganui National Junior Sportsperson of the Year in 2015, has been on a running scholarship at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Now 23-years-old, Beamish had been having a strong final two years at school, highlighted by winning the 2019 NCAA Indoor Mile title, while earlier this year he set a personal best of 7m 44.67s over 3000m in the Dave Hemery Invitation Indoor Meet in Boston, which topped the New Zealand rankings for 2020 and was the sixth fastest of all time.

He followed that up with another personal best of 3m 56.90s to place sixth in the iconic Wanamaker Mile in New York.

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In an interview last week with Athletic NZ's Steve Landells, Beamish recalled the moment when the pandemic potentially ended his varsity career, right when he was preparing to defend his NCAA Indoor crown in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"The day before the event the arena was empty," Beamish said.

"Hand sanitiser was everywhere and we couldn't shake hands with anyone.

"Then a couple of conferences pulled out, which only left a field of nine for the mile.

"It was only when I was putting on my spikes that we got word we wouldn't be racing."

Geordie Beamish at the NCAA West Prelims in California last year. Photo / Jared Lautenslager.
Geordie Beamish at the NCAA West Prelims in California last year. Photo / Jared Lautenslager.

After the shock of the cancellation, Beamish drove back to Northern Arizona, where he had completed his last in-person classes, and then did his final exams to graduate with a degree in civil engineering.

With sports cancelled, Beamish stayed in a bubble with just one other school athlete, as their two housemates had gone home to California, while he was unable to get a medical assessment on a possible stress reaction to his lower leg, due to the state-wide restrictions put in place for Covid-19.

Despite the isolation and uncertainty, the Kiwi has looked to remain positive.

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"I've tried to view the lockdown as if I'm having an extended break, so maybe it is a good chance to let the body heal and take a step back from running. I'm not under pressure to train or perform, so I'm just trying to frame it all in the right way."

Beamish had been hoping to target the New Zealand Olympic team for Tokyo 2020 in either the 1500m or 5000m, and this remains a possibility with the Games now moved to July 2021.

Whatever happens, he is likely to remain in the United States and is deciding whether an extra year as a then 24-year-old varsity competitor would suit him.

"I now have an extra season of outdoor eligibility open to me after the cancellation of this season, so I could come back and study for another year and run an outdoor season.

"But I've also spent the past couple of months talking to several agents to see if there is a possibility to turn professional."

Another Kiwi-runner, Sam Tanner, opted to return home to New Zealand and his home base at Tauranga from the University of Washington in Seattle.

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Tanner made headlines last year when he became the youngest New Zealander to break the four-minute mile at Cooks Gardens in Whanganui.