The noise and excitement levels at any school athletic meeting rises at relay time and so often provides the finale to the day.
In team matches the final result so often depends on that final relay.
I have long espoused the value of relays and the team aspect of cross country and road races in the development of young athletes.
The team aspect and the simple fact that there are usually four in a relay team and three or more in road or cross country teams increases the number involved and at the same time adds a team element to what is seen as an individual sport. This adds purpose to a training group, adding that essential social dynamic for young athletes.
I can recall so many athletes who made progress and gained initial success in relay and distance running teams who went on to individual success.
Back in 2001 a young Year 9 Wanganui Collegiate student Daniel Natusch finished towards the back of a junior long jump, was reserve for the 4 x 100 team and did not run in the heat but was required for the final where he returned from Dunedin with a bronze relay medal.
This was the start of an exciting career that took him to Oceania and World Youth Championships in a career sadly cut short by serious injury in Sydney when at university.
Four years after his debut at NZ Schools Natusch broke the senior boys school triple jump record by 50cm and his jump of 14.92m still stands 15 years later, one of seven schools' titles won by the talented Natusch.
In looking at New Zealand rankings last week I highlighted two former Whanganui athletes who currently head the New Zealand senior rankings. Both decathlete Max Attwell and distance runner Geordie Beamish ran in relays and Beamish's first national title came in Year 11 as the third scoring member of a strong winning Collegiate senior cross country team.
In my review of this year's New Zealand Schools Championships, I highlighted a number of athletes who finished close to medals competing in finals. Among these were Josephine Perkins who two years earlier gained confidence and reward as a member of a medal-winning road race team.
Others this year such as Flynn Johnston not only finished 4th in the 300m hurdles but was in the 6th-placed Whanganui High School 4 x 100 team and the 4th-placed 4 x 400 team to round off a profitable weekend that will be confidence building for 2021.
I am delighted that Whanganui High School have adopted a relay policy and were rewarded by their efforts. The mixed junior team 4 x 400 of Teresa Rennie, Alistair Cameron, Carrie Rennie and Thomas Gowan took the bronze medal.
The senior Whanganui High School 4 x 100 team of Paris Munro, Cassie Glentworth, Charlotte Baker and Maggie Jones took the baton round in 50.62 for fourth, a place shared by their senior boys 4 x 400 team of Jakob Moorhouse, Nat Kirk, Flynn Johnston and Ryan Bayler.
Other Whanganui High School combinations finished 6th in the senior 4 x 100, 7th in the junior girls 4 x 400, senior girls 4 x 400 and mixed senior 4 x 400 relay,
The Whanganui Collegiate combinations were hard hit with injury including the flow-on effect of Genna Maples' injury withdrawal. Sickness on the Sunday of the championships forced additional changes and demonstrated the need of a large squad.
Collegiate combinations finished a creditable 6th in the mixed senior 4 x 400, 7th in the senior girls 4 x 100 and junior 4 x 400 and 8th in the junior girls 4 x 100.
These relay successes and the large number involved with the programmes at both schools bodes well for the future. As indicated in this article many will take the recent success, experience and the confidence that comes with it as they carve out their own athletic individual and relay careers.
Exciting times lie ahead and next week I will look ahead to major events in this second half of the season through to April starting with the Cooks Classic on January 30 and the Sir Peter Snell Mile Challenge the following day.