There is a buzz of expectancy and anticipation among athletic training groups throughout the country on the eve of a new season.
This year the buzz is greater than usual because so much of the latter part of last season was lost to the Covid-19 lockdown.
This buzz was fully evident at the annual pre-season Whanganui Collegiate Athletic Camp in Palmerston North and I am sure this enthusiasm and excitement will have been echoed in other camps and training groups across NZ.
As mentioned last week, the Whanganui Club season commences with children next Monday (October 19) and seniors the following night (October 20). Full details are on the Athletics Wanganui website www.athleticswanganui.co.nz
The Collegiate annual camp was blessed with some wonderful spring weather and unusually still conditions at the Massey track in Palmerston North.
The facility at the Sport and Rugby Institute just a very short distance from the track was world-class and proved ideal for the camp with outstanding accommodation, dinner on-site, good meeting rooms, plus a gym and large indoor space to use had the weather been inclement. I have passed on the virtues of the facility to Athletics New Zealand, noting it is more than just a rugby institute. Its closeness to the track and large campus makes this an especially attractive venue for sporting groups.
I was fortunate to be able to call on coaching assistance in Palmerston North, led by outstanding coach George McConachy and 2019 New Zealand long jump champion Jordan Peters, and assisted by former Whanganui Collegiate club captain Pavinee Watson.
We had our own coaches, with strength and conditioning coach Gil Barnitt, throws coach Richard Drabczynski and also Tim McKenzie. This was complemented by excellent support staff in Kath Edwards and outstanding student administrator and official Anna Dai.
This combination considerably reduced my coaching and administration workload, leading to a productive and stress-free three days. There was huge progress and a positive sense of excitement from the athletes and gave the intended "kick-start" to the season. The only disappointment was a hamstring injury to leading sprinter and jumper Genna Maples, who was in great form after a very productive winter. She received excellent treatment the following day from Tony Snell, who has lectured and assisted at previous school and other national camps. The trip to Hastings for treatment proved well worth the journey and the prognosis is promising.
Maples will not be able to run next Tuesday at the opening club night at Cooks Gardens. It is a B programme that features sprint hurdles, 200m, 800 metres and 3000 metres (walking and running) on the track and high jump on the field. There will be a triple jump added to the events but unlike the other events, this will not be part of the early-season championship section of evening meets.
A timed programme will be posted later this week. Athletes will need to register on arrival and will be given a dedicated number that will speed up recording and provide additional tracing information to the QR codes that can be scanned on entry.
It is perhaps unfortunate that we did not open the season this Tuesday, our intended date, as the weather was perfect. Fingers are crossed for a repeat next week but weather is never certain in our fickle spring climate. The time when athletes would normally be competing was used productively on Tuesday by some helpful young athletes, who cleaned and sorted the gear shed in preparation for next week.
With the last scheduled rugby match on Saturday, the high jump will go back to its usual spot and the running rail put down in anticipation of the start on Monday and Tuesday. I am confident the excitement of the Palmerston camp, the locally-based Whanganui High School group and other athletes will be evident right from the first shot of the starting gun.