The small Whanganui team in Masterton for the final round of the Central Teams Competition made a valiant but unsuccessful effort to repeat the team win in Whanganui a fortnight earlier and wrest the team title.
They could only finish fourth on the day but held on to third place for the series.
With injuries to New Zealand 400 metre hurdle champion/sprinter Jono Maples, middle distance runner Toby Caro and steeplechaser Greta Darke, and a number of athletes unfortunately unavailable, it left a huge task for the athletes in attendance.
On a day in which Masterton’s Colin Pugh Bowl saw all four seasons during the afternoon, the small team ended with only two points less than third-placed and series winner Palmerston North, with Taranaki just ahead of Whanganui for second. Hornets (Hastings) were convincing winners on the day but had not scored enough points in the earlier rounds to do better than fifth overall. Wairarapa, with their home advantage, were second on Saturday.
Whanganui’s first win came from club captain Lucas Martin in the 3000m race walk, with competitors experiencing wild weather fluctuations through the 13m 24.58s it took Martin to complete the race. In the spirit of team competition, he jumped in to fill the gap left by Jono Maples in the 400m hurdles to gain a further nine points for his win over the small field.
Travis Bayler, who is back on university vacation, won his 400m in 52.20 and was fourth in the 200m (23.31). Bayler ran in the 4 x 400 and 4 x 100 relays, with Whanganui finishing second in the latter. Bayler, a New Zealand Schools senior 400m champion in 2018 when he won gold for Whanganui High School from the outside lane, looks to be coming into good early season form. Maples’ injury and the non-availability of a group of promising sprinters not only cost Whanganui points individually but also in relays.
Paige Cromarty won her two hurdle events. The 400m hurdle specialist won the 100m hurdles using alternate legs over the unfamiliar shorter distance and added a win in the 300m hurdles later on in the afternoon. Cromarty also gained three points by finishing seventh in the 100m and ran in both relays.
Hannah Byam, who in March won a silver medal in the inaugural under-16 Athletics New Zealand steeplechase, felt her run on Saturday was slow. It wasn’t; she sliced four seconds off her previous best to cross the line second in the mixed race, winning the women’s section with a performance that has raised her to eighth in the New Zealand under-18 steeplechase rankings.
Daniel Sinclair, who has been in excellent form, stepped down a distance from the 1500m (which he won in Whanganui) to run 800m. Sinclair also won the New Zealand under-20 1500m title in March. After last Tuesday’s Club Night’s outstanding 600m, Sinclair had hoped for a fast time. However, he just edged beneath his personal best set three weeks ago. The strong field paid the penalty for a slow first lap and, although Sinclair worked from the front, the damage was done and he had to settle for 1:55.38, a couple of seconds shy of his Saturday goal. In a competitive last lap, Sinclair’s cousin James Hercus was pipped on the line, finishing third with a season’s best (1:56.09).
It was a great day for the Sinclair family with Daniel’s brother Matthew winning his B 800m heat in a personal best while his 14-year-old younger brother David took four seconds off his 1500m time set when taking the junior bronze at the North Island Schools in April. David finished in 4:24.84 which is the fastest-ever Whanganui Collegiate Year 9 performance over 1500m.
In other middle-distance events, Pascale Bowie set a personal best 1500m (4:52.48) in finishing second, with training partner Rosa Meyer setting a season’s best in third. Louise Brabyn also set a season best with a smooth 10:19.18 to finish second in the 3000m.
The highest point scorer of the day was Whanganui Collegiate School Year 10 athlete Juliet McKinlay who scored 26 points for her home Palmerston North club. She won the 80m hurdles in 12.67s, just outside her best into a stiff headwind, and followed this with a personal best leap of 5.20m in the long jump with another headwind. She was third in the 300m hurdles and ran in the winning Palmerston North 4 x 100 team. This is a confidence lift for this promising athlete in the lead-up to New Zealand Secondary Schools which I will preview next week.