At the end of last week, the Whanganui Collegiate Golf Course became the centre of school running competition, with the Whanganui Intermediate Schools Cross Country on Thursday and the Schools Team Challenge for secondary school athletes on Saturday.
Saturday's race, which was put together in 10 days after the Covid-19 cancellation of the New Zealand Schools event, was conducted in glorious conditions with solid entries and excellent competition, providing some consolation for the region's athletes after missing the New Zealand Schools championships.
Wellington College, regular boys' winners at the Round the Lake relay - sadly another Covid cancellation - took a clean sweep of the boys' titles in the 3 and 6 to score teams in all three grades.
However, they were severely tested in the Year 9 3 to score team event where they shaded fellow Wellington school Onslow College by two points, with hosts Whanganui Collegiate in 3rd.
Onslow took the first two places, with James Wembridge edging out teammate Max Doherty (10:09 and 10:14), with Ben Brunner from Wellington third, Wembridge finishing third and fourth in the race which was combined with the juniors (under-16), with both grades running 3km.
Whanganui Collegiate were second to Wellington in the 3 to score junior event (12 – 19), with Havelock North just one point behind Collegiate. The strong New Plymouth Boys' High School team were runners-up in both the 3 and 6 to score in the senior boys' grade.
Wellington Girls' College took the lion's share of the girls' teams titles with wins in Year 9 in both 3 and 6 to score, a feat repeated in the junior girls' grade.
In the senior girls' event, New Plymouth Girls' High edged Wellington by 3 points (18 -21) with Collegiate in 3rd on 24 points and Nga Tawa three points further back, reversing the Whanganui Schools placings. Whanganui Collegiate won the 6 to score senior girls' ahead of Nga Tawa.
Whanganui athletes had three individual podium places. George Lambert (Whanganui Collegiate) took the senior boys' honours after a tremendous battle over the first three of four 1500m laps, with fellow New Zealand Schools international Mac Rowe (New Plymouth Boys' High School) Rowe finally losing ground over the hilly section of the final lap. The well-performed Jamie Barnes of Wellington College eventually took second ahead of the tiring Rowe.
Lambert's winning time of (19:02) was his best over 6000m, showing he would have been very competitive had the New Zealand Schools titles been held. His winning margin was 16 seconds.
Cameron Potts, son of former New Zealand Commonwealth Games representative Richard Potts, was fourth. Potts snr held the Round the Lake record for over two decades after his 1989 performance.
Whanganui's other title came from Lambert's Collegiate training partner Daniel Sinclair in the junior boys' division, completing the 3000m journey in 9:46 , a handy 16 seconds ahead of Lorran Rabbitte of Havelock North, with James Hercus of Wellington College third.
Race 1 (Year 9 and Junior Girls combined) over 3000 metres was impressively won by Wellington's Year 9 representative Ava Sutherland in a hugely impressive 10:49, a full 41 seconds ahead of Palmerston North Girls' High School Year 9 athlete Lucy Mclean.
Second across the line in the combined race was Amy McHardy (Wellington Girls') – 11:09 to edge her teammate Molly O'Sullivan (11:16).
The senior girls' race was won by Abby Carver (New Plymouth Girls' High) with Emma Fergusson (Nga Tawa), who is still a junior by age, running superbly to take second ahead of Collegiate team captain Mackenzie Morgan in third, reversing the order from the Whanganui Schools titles a month earlier.
Three days prior to the Teams Challenge, the annual Whanganui Intermediate Schools Year 7 and 8 Championships were held. Teams honours were more widely shared than on the Saturday.
Huntley School won both the 3 and 6 to score team titles from Whanganui Intermediate. Whanganui Intermediate won the Year 7 girls' 3 to score by three points from St George's, with a wider points difference in the six to score. At Year 8 level, Whanganui Intermediate headed Huntley in the boys' grade.
St George's claimed both of the Year 8 girls' team titles, with Hunterville second in the 3 to score and Whanganui Intermediate runners-up in the 6 to score.
Hannah Byam (St George's) was an impressive winner in the Year 8s, setting a course record (7:16) ahead of Grace Darbyshire (Huntley). The Year 8 boys' winner Kaleb Compton (Westmere) ran the same time as Byam.
The Year 8 boys' title was won by Henry Speedy (Huntley) from Samuel Hermann (St George's) with Rebecca Boden Cave (St George's) winning the girls' Year 8 event ahead of teammate Maria Lupton.
With the movement to Covid alert level 1, the Parks run resumes on Saturday on the riverbank at 8am.