A depleted Whanganui team secured a win in the final round of the Regional League in Masterton at the weekend and retained the Regional League title.
The Whanganui team travelled without leading sprinters Tayla Brunger and Emma Osborne (injury) and the non-availability of other leading athletes including Travis Bayler, Maggie Jones and Nat Kirk. The team did very well to win.
The win in the 16-team club competition consolidated the lead at the top of the table to retain the Regional League title. Over the three competitions Whanganui established a strong winning margin from Palmerston North (569-461) with Mana a distant third on 273 points.
Liam Back ran his second sub 1:55, clocking over 800 metres over a four-day period to record a season's best 1:54.11 in Masterton, only just outside of his life-time best. Back ran it the hard way taking the lead with a decisive break at the bell and held back the late challenges from a strong field to win.
Back ran a personal best 400 metres at club night on Tuesday (51.43) behind New Zealand Schools champion Travis Bayler (50.84) and the Collegiate Girls 4 x 100 Team (50.52).
Recent races and his improved speed is a real confidence boost for Back who is attempting the demanding 800 metre and 1500 metre double at New Zealand Secondary Schools. He achieved this double at the Athletics New Zealand Championships in March over the three-day meeting.
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The more demanding schedule over two and a half days with additional rounds in Wellington next week as opposed to the full three days in Christchurch makes this a big ask. His final decision was based on the 800 metres being his focus coupled with the fact that the final comes first on final day with four hours between finals.
Genna Maples jumped well to take the long jump with a legal 5.69 metre leap. This is her best jump outside of major championships and although aggravating an ankle injury should be pleased with her effort. Maples finished second in the 100 metres behind Sophie Williams. Williams later finished second over 200 metres into a stiffening breeze.
There were 19 personal bests and a further eight season bests from the 40-strong Whanganui team.
Among the best was another Collegiate record from Lucas Martin in the 3000-metre walk (13: 36.23) but he had to be content to settle for second behind the impressive Daniel du Toit (12:25.06).
Paris Munro looked good in winning the 80 metre hurdles (12.63 into a stiff head wind) and backed this up with a solid race for third in the 300 metre hurdles behind Sophie Redmayne. Both stuttered at hurdle six as they came into the wind on the home straight, costing both potential personal bests.
Zach Bellamy, in finishing third in the 1500 metres, took four seconds off his best in 4:05.59. Further back in the field, 14-year-old Daniel Sinclair took even more off his best with a 4:26.25 performance, finishing 17th in a large strong field.
This not only sliced five seconds off his best but also produced the fastest Year 9 performance from a Collegiate athlete. This feat was repeated in the girls when 13-year old Louise Brabyn in finishing 4th in 5:09.22 for another Year 9 Collegiate best.
In the field Jacky Dai jumped a personal best of 12.14 metres in the triple jump which he bettered on Tuesday with a 12.30 metre effort. His team-mate Jonty Tripe also set a best in Masterton and bettered it on Tuesday (11.74).
Richard Drabczynski coached hammer throwers Sophie Andrews (37.45) and Melville Su (32.26) had solid efforts scoring our only throwing points.
The injuries to Brunger and Osborne meant a rejigged women's 4 x 100 team.
Unfortunately, the baton was dropped at first change. Sophie Redmayne went back to retrieve the baton. The team went on to finish second in 52 seconds. The same quartet (Yasmin Christenhusz, Redmayne, Williams and Maples) put it right on Tuesday night finishing in a very respectable 50.52 when running in the male 400 metres.
This bodes well for New Zealand Schools especially if the two injured athletes become available for selection. Running in 400 metre races gave other Whanganui High School and Collegiate 4 x 100 valuable extra competition experience and the inclusion of two 2 x200 teams added to the competitive mix.
Next week I will review the New Zealand Secondary schools Championships which has attracted 1375 athletes from 22 Schools and includes a group from Niue, Cook Islands and Fiji.