When working on analysis of the results of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships earlier in the month I was again reminded about the size of the whole event.
There were 225 schools entered with nearly 1400 athletes, and an international presence with small teams from Niue, Fiji and the Cook Islands.
One hundred and sixty-five different schools had at least one top placing (more if para events are included) with 109 different schools winning at least one medal in track and field and but for the cancellation of the road race because of weather these numbers would have increased further.
Whanganui schools featured strongly in these statistics.
Whanganui Collegiate with 13 medals gained the most (5 gold, 7 silver and 1 bronze), this included the most golds and headed the unofficial medal table. Whanganui High School won 7 medals (3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze) and were third just behind St Andrews College on the table.
In looking at top eight performances, where I have as with IAAF World Championships (now World Athletics) scored eight points for first and one point for eighth place (excluding para events which I have scored separately).
Again Whanganui features strongly with Collegiate heading the table with near neighbours Whanganui High School in second place 54 points behind in a table that includes 165 schools.
An observer at Newtown Stadium asked why Whanganui has produced so many hurdlers over many years. My simple reply was because Whanganui Athletic Club takes the trouble to put on hurdle races regularly and does not balk at the work required setting up such events.
The club can take some credit for the Whanganui success at the championships as the weekly club nights provide good competition and training and the timed programme over a maximum of 75 minutes appears to be popular with athletes and officials.
The growth of athletics at Whanganui High School rewarded with success at the championships has added competition and coaching and a growing co-operation, essential ingredients for growth.
The benefits of the children's programme established by Jodie Brunger with its sound developmental programme is reaping rewards as young athletes move to secondary school.
The success of Whanganui athletes was recognised in the selection of the New Zealand School team for the Australian Championships in Sydney next March when Whanganui have 20 per cent of the 20-strong team.
Genna Maples has been selected for her third successive NZSS team and will be joined by fellow Collegiate athletes Lucas Martin and Sophie Williams, both winning their first representation. Also winning her first New Zealand singlet is Maggie Jones (High School) following her 80m/300 metre hurdle double.
Relays again contributed to successes for Whanganui athletes.
Collegiate took gold and silver in the respective Senior Girls 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 metre relays, while High School took silver in both relays at junior girls' level. This was backed up by both schools having four further teams in the top eight (High School Senior Mixed 4 x 400 — 5th, Senior Boys 4 x 100 — 6th, Junior Boys 4 x 100 7th, and Senior Boys 4 x 400 8th; Whanganui Collegiate Junior Girls 4 x 400 5th, Junior Boys 4 x 100 and Senior Boys 4 x 400 6th, and Junior Girls 4 x 400 — 7th).
As I have said many times in this column there is no better way to introduce the sport than relays and the success in 2019 will pay dividends in the future.
Closest to medals were Casie Glentworth (High School) with a fourth place in the 300 metre junior hurdles, in a race where teammates took gold (Maggie Jones) and bronze (Paris Munro). Munro's brother Connor was fourth in the Senior 400 metre hurdles. Tayla Brunger (Collegiate) was fourth in a very strong 400 metre Senior Girls final.
Brunger demonstrated that she has the ability to excel in this event when she ran an excellent 55.4 second win at the Arthur Eustice Meet in Palmerston North a week later on yet another windy afternoon.
Travis Bayler and Rebecca Baker (High School) were both fifth in their respective 400 and 1500 metre senior finals, while Andres Hernandez (Collegiate) finished 5th in the Senior Steeplechase backed up by 7th over 3000 metres. Teammate Joseph Sinclair also ran in two senior finals for 6th in the 300 metre hurdles and 7th in the 800 metres.
Rebekah Phillips (High School) and Lucy Brown (Collegiate) were both sixth in their respective senior and junior Triple Jumps. The other top six individual performances came from Josephine Perkins (Collegiate) in the Junior Girls 2000 metre Steeplechase.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. I will be back in early January previewing the exciting second half of the season with an early highlight, the Cooks Classic on January 18.