The week should have been a double anniversary for me.
It is exactly 19 years since my first Athletics Insight article appeared in the Whanganui Chronicle and the 43rd anniversary of Round the Lake Relay.
The former has happened with this article but unfortunately the latter became another Covid-19 sporting casualty.
My first article immediately followed the IAAF Golden League (now Diamond League) final which I was privileged to attend in Melbourne in September 2001.
This brought a host of world record holders and Olympic medal winners together in the strongest field assembled in Australia outside of the Olympics a year earlier. The competition was outstanding and the presentation of the four-hour spectacular was memorable – track and field at its very best.
The Round the Lake Relay, which has become such a fixture on the school running calendar, has been run annually since its inception in 1978. The inspiration for this relay came from the pleasure I had as a student at Loughborough (UK) at the Hyde Park Relay around the Serpentine in London which was a highlight of the university running scene.
On a Sunday walk back in 1977 I realised that the magic of the London event was transferable to Virginia Lake and the result was the annual Round the Lake Relay.
Round the Lake Relay has become a fixture on the calendar and at its height attracted 200 teams from more than 30 colleges. Even the closure of the lake on two occasions because of weather did not lead to cancellation, just a transfer to the grounds of host school Whanganui Collegiate.
These grounds were also the venue for a special 25th anniversary race. However, Covid-19 has beaten us this year. We remain in alert level 2 until an announcement on September 6, the day before the race.
This would be too late for both the necessary council permit and also communication with the more than 25 regular competing schools. In a year with so much disruption this is another sad sporting loss.
With the New Zealand Schools moved from June to hopefully September 19, entries and enquiries had suggested bumper numbers for this year. At least all the prizes were in place and hopefully permit cost can be transferred to next year placing us months ahead for a return to action in 2021.
The Athletics New Zealand Cross Country Championship renamed "The Athletics New Zealand Cross Country Challenge" was successfully conducted in Dunedin at the weekend under level 2 stipulations.
Aucklanders were unable to attend but the rest of the country were able to enjoy a splendidly and creatively run event. The course on the Chisolm Links was outstanding and challenging for athletes.
Spectators were separated from athletes and appropriately socially distanced. The weather also came to the party with excellent conditions. The men's race was won by triathlete Hayden Wilde, who unable to be in Europe for triathlons demonstrated his running strength with an impressive win over the five-lap, 10,000m race in 31 minutes 44 seconds, over a minute ahead of the outstanding Sam Tanner (Waikato).
George Lambert, who five days earlier had dominated the Whanganui Schools Senior Boys Cross Country, won his first individual medal with a silver in the under-18 grade.
Although unable to match the strong front running performance of Wellingtonian Will Anthony, Lambert was able to break free of the small second group over the hilly section late in the second of three 2000m laps.
Anthony, who came as a guest to the MWA Championships in July, finished over a minute ahead of Lambert at the Bason Botanical Gardens. Lambert slightly narrowed the gap from July on the outstanding Anthony who had finished second to Whanganui's Liam Back at last year's New Zealand Schools Cross Country.
Anthony has had an excellent summer on the track and will start as favourite for the Schools' title later in the month.
Lambert has made a significant improvement and hopefully will continue this progress at the New Zealand Schools Championships later in the month. Lambert has another year at school but will move to the under-20 grade for next year's Athletics New Zealand event.
Mackenzie Morgan was the other Whanganui athlete competing in Dunedin and like Lambert is in Year 12 but is still an under-18 grade next year.
Saturday was Morgan's first race over 5000m and she found both the distance and the demanding course challenging. The postponement of the Whanganui Schools Cross Country by a week to last Monday resulted in two hard races over five days.
She finished 11th in the strong field but had clearly lost some of the sparkle seen on the Collegiate golf course five days earlier. The promising Morgan will have gained invaluable experience for her exciting future.