"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races - one after the other." (Walter Elliot)
I admire athletes who show perseverance. I particularly admire those who have shown stickability and overcome setbacks.
Athletes who have finished so frustratingly close to a medal many times, and who finally break through to the podium - often becoming champions and leaving the early developers and those who had previously occupied places on the podium behind them - deserve special mention. I have referred to many such athletes frequently in this column over the years.
I have just tidied up our Whanganui rankings for the 2020-21 season, and noted many who have made steady progress over the last season. During the next few weeks, I will highlight some of these athletes who, if this progress continues, could make a breakthrough in the season ahead.
Year 12 Whanganui High School's Charlotte Baker is one such athlete who has persevered over her high school years as a regular at training and club nights, and has played her part in Whanganui High School relay successes.
The rankings demonstrate steady progress. She finished fourth in the 150m rankings behind Genna Maples (now in the US), Bella Willis and teammate and New Zealand under-18 hurdle champion Maggie Jones. Baker was third in our 300m rankings behind Maples and Willis. Baker was also third in the 400m rankings behind Tayla Brunger (now in the US) and Willis.
Baker made her major breakthrough with a third place in the 300m hurdles at North Island Schools, where Whanganui athletes took the first four places. The race was won by Maggie Jones, with Casie Glentworth (to be featured in a subsequent article) second.
Baker will try to take her first individual medal in this event at December's New Zealand Secondary Schools, her major goal for the first part of the season. Baker is close to running under 60 seconds for the 400m and knows that improvement here and over shorter sprints, along with further hurdle technical work, will help achieve her goal. Relays and being in a strong team will help her reach these goals and significantly improve her performance.
Year 11 Whanganui Collegiate middle-distance runner Daniel Sinclair is another athlete to watch. He, like Baker, made his first step onto the podium in April at the North Island Schools Championships and, like Baker, has never won an individual national medal. He won his North Island medal in the intermediate boys 3000m, when he so nearly went under nine minutes for the first time (9:00.30).
He is third on our rankings behind Geordie Beamish (who is now running professionally in the US but has retained his Whanganui membership) and teammate George Lambert. Lambert gained his first individual medal at the New Zealand Cross Country in August after his fourth place at New Zealand Schools. Sinclair had finished four places behind his older training partner at his senior debut, with both being selected for the New Zealand Schools paper team.
Sinclair is second on our 1500m rankings behind Beamish. Sinclair finished sixth in the fastest North Island Intermediate 1500m ever held, with the first three breaking the existing record. Sinclair's 4:07.39 for the classic distance bodes well for the season ahead. He is faster at this stage in his schooling than Beamish and other former Collegiate athletes who have been on, or are on, US scholarships (Hugo Beamish, Alex Wallace, Liam Back and his brother William Sinclair), as well as former Olympian Tony Polhill, who ran in the 1972 Olympics final in Munich.
Sinclair makes his senior New Zealand Schools track debut at the end of the year at the combined New Zealand under-18 and New Zealand Schools Championships, when he contests the 3000m and possibly the 1500m. He will still be in the under-18s category in March and will be able to run in the 2022 New Zealand under-18 championships in Hastings.
We will watch the progress of these two promising young athletes and I will feature in this column others who have shown perseverance and risen in our rankings.
The final rankings for the 2020-21 season will be on our website next week.