In perfect sunny and still conditions, the results of the Whanganui Collegiate School Cross Country Championships on Wednesday closely followed pre-race predictions.
The 2020 Cross Country captains George Lambert and Mackenzie Morgan produced the two fastest times of the day in their respective boys and girl's grades.
All races were run over 3000m with two laps of the newly-created 1500m circuit.
The undulating circuit with two sharp climbs in each lap, and a steeplechase mid-lap, provided a 3000m challenge for all 330 competitors.
Having the whole race confined to the small golf course area was also excellent for the many spectators.
New Zealand Schools international George Lambert, who had his first run in the black singlet in Wollongong last year and then the disappointment of the Covid-19 cancellation of April's ISF World Schools in Slovakia, set a strong pace from the gun.
He ran even splits over the two laps to win by 26 seconds from Ben Conder, stopping the clock at 9m 12s, only 10 seconds shy of his best 3000m track performance.
Finn Murphy was third for a Grey House trifecta.
Morgan went straight to the front and dominated the Intermediate Girls field.
A Year 12 athlete, Morgan joined Collegiate this year from Wellington East Girls, where she had finished a highly creditable tenth at last year's junior NZ Schools Cross Country in Timaru.
She has trained well and only a week earlier had set the fastest time at the Wanganui Harrier Club's Round the Lake Relay at Virginia Lake.
Morgan produced the fastest time of all the Collegiate girls by 17 seconds.
Josephine Perkins, 18th in last year's NZ Schools, was 32 seconds behind Morgan in runnerup.
The Senior Girls race had the four leading runners watching each other, with none prepared to take the pace.
The longer the race went, the more it suited former New Zealand age group and NZ Schools 400m champion Emma Osborne.
Osborne broke free from the leading group in the final stages of the race to win from Ana Brabyn by two seconds, with the gritty Sarah Mathews a further three seconds in arrears and the well-performed Ashleigh Alabaster in fourth.
Brabyn, who took bronze at last year's NZ Schools Juniors, had opted to run up a grade.
The move helped her Selwyn House team take the teams title in the four-to-score event from Harvey House by three points.
Brabyn's younger sister won the Junior race in an impressive 11m 32s to record the second-fastest girls time of the day.
Brabyn had finished 16th at last year's NZ Schools when she ran up a grade in the Junior Grade rather than in the Year 9's, and was rewarded with a NZ Schools team gold.
She was strongly challenged by a trio of Year 9 athletes in Mady Petley, Theodora Gempton and Franca Morrah.
Unlike the Senior Girls, the pace of the whole group was right on from the start, as four of the first five were Year 9 athletes, which bodes well for a Year 9 Team at the NZ Schools Championships, to be held in Hawera on the weekend of September 19.
New Zealand triathlete medal-winner Hunter Gibson won the Intermediate Boys with a strong front-running performance in a time of 9m 43s — third fastest of the day.
Jonty Tripe, Tom Hercus, Lucas Martin, and Elliot Jones followed in close order, all faster than the third placed Senior Boy.
Hercus, Martin, Jones and John Bryant, who finished eighth, brought Harvey a strong win in the Intermediate Teams race.
Year 10 student Daniel Sinclair dominated the Junior Boys race, winning by over 30 seconds.
With his arm in plaster Sinclair, went right from the gun with a strong front running performance.
Sinclair, who as a Year 9 on the track only just running in the 1500m of the Under 16 New Zealand Schools Championships final, again demonstrated his potential.
Year 9 athlete Oliver Jones came through the field in the second lap to head off Max Thornton to take second, while Thornton gained considerable consolation by leading his Selwyn House to the Junior team title.
The overall competition which combined the team's event (four-to-score) with a graded standard point competition contested by all runners was the closest for many years.
Grey House took the title from Selwyn. The houses shared the standards with the same total.
The leading runners will be back in action at the Whanganui Schools Championships, to be held on Monday, August 17, providing excellent preparation for NZ Schools a month later.