Fewer than 30 athletes travelled to Inglewood at the weekend and exceeded all expectations by winning the first round of the Regional Athletic League competed for by clubs throughout the lower and central North Island.
The small team of promising Whanganui High School athletes and mostly younger Whanganui Collegiate School athletes who were not at senior prizegiving gained huge experience and came home with a raft of excellent performances.
Maggie Jones impressed over 300m hurdles but was probably startled more than helped by the fact that one hurdle was missing. Her time of 46.71 was not only her best but shows the potential of a junior podium finish at New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships at the start of next month. She backed this up with a win over 80m hurdles (12.14) and a solo win over 100m hurdles (15.50).
In the 300m hurdles there was an all Whanganui race with five athletes. Paris Munro in second was right up to her best and should join teammate Jones amongst the event's best next month.
North Island Schools winner Sophie Redmayne, unavailable because of the Collegiate prizegiving, would have relished the excellent conditions and will hope for similar weather in Palmerston North in the second round of competition this weekend. Redmayne can gain some consolation by recording her best Cooks Gardens 300m hurdle performance (46.62) when she ran over hurdles in a 300m heat at Tuesday's club night.
Lucas Martin, featured a fortnight ago in my article, took another 11 seconds off his best in the 3000m walk stopping the clock in 13:40.49. He nearly paid the price for an over ambitious opening lap which was 10 seconds faster than his target. He held his form to lap the whole field at least once and was able to key off lapped walkers as he battled both fatigue and the clock. Fifteen-year-old Martin moves to third in the New Zealand under 18 rankings.
Travis Bayler had a good meeting. Although narrowly beaten in the 400m by the well-performed Joseph Chamberlain (Palmerston North) he should be delighted with his time (50.86).
Bayler, who won last year's New Zealand Schools title in dramatic fashion in Dunedin, should be pleased with his back up effort in the 200m finishing in a personal best 22.73. He backed these performances up with a win in a personal best of 1:22.98 over 600m at Tuesday's club night. He has a wide range of options for next month's New Zealand Schools.
German exchange student Kyra Engel was a double winner. She won the 100m in 13.04 and later the 200m in 26.88. Whanganui, with national class sprinters Sophie Williams, Genna Maples, Tayla Brunger and Emma Osborne, now has added depth to sprinting.
Ana Brabyn is coming back into form. Although not yet at the standard that brought her two North Island silver medals in the Intermediate 400m and 800m last April there were glimpses of her old form as she builds her campaign to defend her Junior Girls' 800m title. Although still short of her April performances she can reflect that a year ago her performances of 59.59 for third in the 400m and 2:20.48 in the 800m for second would have been best performances. With just over four weeks to the NZ Schools Championships this weekend will be very important for Brabyn.
Young Jacky Dai had a memorable afternoon in the triple jump with three personal best performances in an excellent series of jumps. His last effort of 12.02 was his first 12m jump.
There were a whole group of encouraging personal bests from the young team. These included Emma Mckelvie (1.44) in the high jump, 14-year-old Daniel Sinclair in the 1500m (4:31.50), Casey Glentworth 300m Hurdles (48.32) and the Whanganui High School junior girls set a High School record in winning the 4 x 100 (51.60).
There was a real vibrancy at Tuesday's weekly club night's C programme in preparation for the second round of the Regional League on Saturday in Palmerston North. There were 44 starters in the road race with many dragged through to best performances.
Over the following 70 minutes there were 195 recorded performances. Tayla Brunger in her first run since October 19 impressed over 300m (40.42) and 40 minutes later set a personal best 1:30.09 over 600m. Sophie Williams in her first run since April ran well behind Genna Maples over 150m and her time of 19.18 suggests that she has rehabilitated well from her hamstring injury.
Athletic action continues at the weekend with the second of three rounds of the Regional League in Palmerston North.