It may not be on the top of everyone's holiday reading list but I always spend time around Christmas studying the Athletic New Zealand annual ranking list.
We are fortunate in New Zealand to have a world class ranking service under athletics statistician and lover of the sport former British Olympian, former Director of Coaching and High Performance at Athletics New Zealand, Dr Stephen Hollings.
The rankings provide invaluable information and as with World athletics reflect the calendar year rather than just our athletic season.
It is pleasing to see at year's end Whanganui athletes continue to feature in the rankings, once again demonstrating how important the city has been in the development of young athletes.
Eleven different athletes appear in the top five in age group rankings with a further athlete as a member of a leading relay combination. Many appear in the top five of more than one event.
Whanganui plays an important role as part of the athletic pathway, some listed have already left the district and others are on the move but pleasingly new young names and as indicated last week have made a breakthrough.
Two former Whanganui athletes head the New Zealand Senior ranking, illustrating the important part Whanganui plays in athlete's development and pathways.
Max Attwell and Geordie Beamish ran in the winning Whanganui Collegiate 4 x 400 team at the home New Zealand Schools in 2014. Attwell, based in Canterbury, heads the decathlon rankings while Geordie Beamish, based in the US, heads the 3000 metres and is second in the mile rankings following his 3:56.90 at the Millrose Games in New York in February.
Tayla Brunger was our leading the under-20 athlete and heads both the 100 and 400 metres rankings and shares the top performance in 200 metres with Maia Broughton (Canterbury) - Broughton benefiting from a slightly lighter following wind. In the 400 metres Brunger's best time of 54.63 ranks her third fastest woman in the country.
Maggie Jones, who so impressively won the 300 metre hurdles at New Zealand Secondary Schools, tops the under-18 rankings (44.66) with the comforting thought that she still has a year in the grade. Jones also ranks second over 100 metre hurdles.
Genna Maples, who has battled injury that reduced her appearances, ranked second to Jones over 300m hurdles (44.85). Both may well have run faster had Maples not missed the final through injury (they were both considerably quicker than the other competitors).
Jones' one run over 400 metre hurdles put her third in the under-20 rankings. Both Jones and Maples lost the opportunity to compete for New Zealand Schools in Australia for the New Zealand Schools team. Maples had few competitive long jumps in 2020 and none since her winning jump at the New Zealand Championships in March where her 5.60 metres was enough to secure third on the rankings.
The Manawatu/Whanganui New Zealand winning 4 x 100 combination of Tayla Brunger, Emma Osborne, Aria Carroll and Genna Maples tops the New Zealand under-20 rankings with their 48.22 winning performance in March which also set a Whanganui Collegiate School record.
Injuries to Osborne and Maples and the departure of Brunger meant that the "dream team" were not able to mount a challenge on the New Zealand Schools record in December. Osborne who missed most of the season still ranked 5th over 400 metres in the under-20 grade.
Lucas Martin was second in both the 3000 metre and 10,000 metre under-18 track walking rankings. He was behind Daniel du Toit (Wellington) in both but did beat du Toit in the NZ Championships Christchurch over 10,000 metres and in the road 5000 metres where Martin set New Zealand under-17, 18, 19 and under-20 road records.
Liam Back, now based at university in the US, tops the under-20 3000 metre rankings two places ahead of his former teammate Andres Hernandez Back, who was also was third in the 800 metre rankings, while former Whanganui middle-distance runner Zach Bellamy ended up fourth in both the 1500m and 800m under-20 rankings: Bellamy's Collegiate training partner George Lambert was third in the under-18 steeplechase rankings.
Two Year 11 students with another year in the under-18 grade made their first entry to the rankings with Nathaniel Kirk going into third place in both 300m and 110m hurdles for an impressive debut with Jacky Dai reaching fourth in the under-18 triple jump.
Kirk was rewarded with two bronze medals at New Zealand Schools with Dai a credible fourth - two exciting prospects.
I wish all a successful 2021 and hope the Whanganui Club and schools continue on young athlete's pathway and that Cooks Gardens continues to deliver as a venue.