Track and field ended abruptly a fortnight after the New Zealand Championships in March as the nation went into lockdown. The Whanganui Schools, North Island Schools, Australian Championships and Tokyo Olympics all became casualties.
A fresh start and a new season is just about to get under way.
We certainly have much to look forward to on the eve of a new season. Club nights start the week after next. The children's section starts on Monday, October 19, with the younger children at 4.15pm and intermediate school-aged children at 6pm.
We are delighted the outstanding programmes led by Jodie Brunger will continue under the direction of club captain Travis Bayler. I know he will lean on Jodie for advice and I am sure he will get the support of parents and other athletes in continuing the vibrant and valuable programme. Athletics, with its movement skills and running, jumping and throwing at the core of all our sport, is such a valuable core foundation sport.
The senior club nights start the following evening, Tuesday, October 20. The timed programme appears on the Whanganui Athletics website each week and the event programme through to Christmas has already been published. Events generally start at 7pm but when there is a bigger programme there is a 6.45pm start.
The timed programme allows athletes to plan effectively with certainty. There is flexibility about the programme and additional events can be added with eight days' notice. Already there has been a request for a major men's 1500m on Tuesday, December 1 (the first day of Olympic qualifying).
The club programme, I believe, has helped both Whanganui Collegiate and Whanganui High School to excellent results at last year's New Zealand Secondary Schools, with both schools featured in the top four schools nationally in terms of both medals and top-eight finishes.
The successful Regional League meetings gives excellent early season competition for all athletes and is vital for school-age athletes preparing for the New Zealand Schools champs which are scheduled for the second weekend in December in Tauranga. This is a week later than usual because of the later start of NCEA exams.
The first of these Regional Meetings is in Hastings on Saturday, October 31 (an early chance for athletes to check out the venue for the Athletics New Zealand Championships in March 2021). The second Regional Meeting is on Saturday, October 14, and brings the league to Cooks Gardens for the first time in three years and will be a welcome opportunity for our athletes to perform on their home track.
The final Regional League meet is in Masterton on November 28, a fortnight before New Zealand Schools.
The spacing of fortnightly major meets is good for all athletes, especially for secondary schools athletes in the build-up to the annual Schools Championships. It is a time that school-age athletes have to combine the vital academic aspirations and sporting goals.
Planning is essential and athletes need to be prepared for the challenges and pressures.
This planning will be a vital component of my annual pre-season camp being held at the weekend in Palmerston North.
The major classic events start in January with the Potts Classic in Hastings on Saturday, January 23, and the Cooks Classic a week after at Cooks Gardens on Saturday, January 30. The series continues into February in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington, leading towards the National Championships.
All meetings have increased status next season and with the Olympic qualifying period starting on December 1 and few, if any, overseas opportunities, our events become vital for athletes with Olympic aspirations.
The Cooks Classic is enhanced by being combined with the New Zealand Mile Championship (returning after more than half a century to what many see as the home of the New Zealand mile - Cooks Gardens) The under-20 3000m championship is being held in conjunction with the Classic. Cooks is an exciting addition to the programme which also includes the popular "Fastest Kid on the Block" that has become a feature of the evening.
Local officials will be busy as the Cooks Classic will be followed by the New Zealand Masters Games that brings friendly competition to so many at Cooks Gardens.
Track and field will be held over the first weekend in February with additional events on Monday, February 8, including the short 2000m road race which, like many Olympic marathons, starts and ends on the track. All these events depend on volunteers and the club is always on the look out for more helpers.
It is true "that many hands make light work".