Last week's Whanganui Secondary Schools Cross Country produced few surprises with titles going with the form book, nevertheless there was some excellent races on the Tawhero Golf Course
There were some genuine national class athletes competing with no less than five of the 24-strong New Zealand Secondary Schools 2018 team on show. In the boy's race Liam Back and international team mate Andres Hernandez set a solid tempo.
Collegiate and New Zealand teammate Zach Bellamy remained in contact for the first short lap of 1000m and was still in close contention after the first of the two 1500m laps but fell away over the final lap in which Back also broke away from Hernandez to win by 11 seconds with Bellamy a further 22 seconds in arrears.
Back said the run was a solid tempo effort and was "certainly not a walk in the park". A measure of the performance was that Bellamy took 25 seconds off his time of a year ago.
Collegiate first year senior George Lambert, who missed much of the build-up through injury, was fourth. Lambert was followed by the battle of the North Island 800 metre medal winners. Karl Loebe, who took the silver in the Intermediate grade, headed off his Whanganui High School team mate and Senior bronze North Island medal winner Travis Bayler with North Island senior 800m winner Joseph Sinclair in seventh.
With five in the first seven, not surprisingly Collegiate won both the three and six to score event rounding off a day when they won three and six to score in all but the Year 9 Boys.
As predicted last week the senior girls race provided an epic battle between two New Zealand internationals - Sarah Lambert (Collegiate) and Rebecca Baker (High School).
As in 2018 on the same course the two went though the first of two 1500m laps locked together. There was a reversal of last year's result when Lambert made a small break over the undulating section of the excellent course which she increased slightly over the last part of the circuit to win by 12 seconds.
Lambert earlier in the month has bettered her time over the Karori course by eight seconds and made a significant improvement over the Tawhero circuit. Baker has continued her outstanding hockey career, combining it with running while Lambert has considerably reduced her hockey.
They will next meet in Timaru in just over a fortnight at New Zealand Schools. Ashleigh Alabaster (Collegiate was third with Nga Tawa's Adelaide Rope in fourth.
The girl's grades were combined with all grades running in the same race and distance with separate results. The Junior (under 16) winner was Collegiate's promising 400m/800m runner Ana Brabyn who crossed the line in fourth position in the combined race.
Brabyn was 12th last year at the New Zealand Schools and has an opportunity and a challenge to do better in Timaru. Emma Ferguson (Nga Tawa) was second Junior with Josephine Perkins (Collegiate) third.
The Year 9 grade was won by Brabyn's 13-year-old diminutive sister Louise Brabyn who was a highly creditable seventh across the line with Annie Airey (Nga Tawa) almost a minute behind with Brabyn's teammate Bella Marks a further one second back.
Nat Kirk (High School), who won the Year 9 grade last year, successfully moved up a grade to win from triathlete medal winner Hunter Gibson (Collegiate) by 19 seconds with Gibson's team mate Harvey Meyer in third position.
Daniel Sinclair (Collegiate), who was the pre-race favourite, won his 3000 metre race by 45 seconds from George Davey (High School) and team mate Heike Reisma in third after a sprint finish with Jakob Anderson (Cullinane). High School, with all six runners home by 12th, were convincing winners in both the 3 and six to score team's event.
Many of the leading runners will make the long journey to Timaru for the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships where the five internationals will again be striving to finish in the top 10 and win the right to wear the black singlet in New South Wales in late August.
Whanganui Collegiate will hope to repeat or improve on the team silver and bronze medals won in Taupo last year, and the strong Whanganui High School Year 9 boys will hope to repeat their strong Tawhero performance in Timaru.
Leading athletes from all the Whanganui Schools teams will combine to compete in the Regional 5 x 2000m relays conducted on the Sunday following the individual championships the previous day when they represent their individual schools.