The sun shone and so did the athletes on the Massey Community track in Palmerston North on Saturday for the second round of the Regional Athletic League.
Many Whanganui Collegiate athletes who had missed the opening meeting in Inglewood a week previously competed in Palmerston North and helped Whanganui consolidate their lead in the teams' competition at the weekend. They increased their lead over second placed Palmerston North to 63 points. Tayla Brunger impressed in the 400m and her time of 55.44 took her to second in the New Zealand under-18 rankings and set a new Whanganui Collegiate School record eclipsing Emma Osborne's 55.54 set in Australia last December.
Osborne was second on Saturday. Both should feature at New Zealand Secondary Schools in Wellington over the first weekend in December.
The two combined with Sophie Redmayne and Genna Maples to win the 4 x 100m relay with a smart 49.20 which also sets a MWA Centre record. The relay was the fastest by a Collegiate team in the build-up to New Zealand Schools and that was without Sophie Williams, who was back from injury and had won the 100m earlier in the afternoon with an impressive 12.16 (head wind), but not available for the relay.
In the same race the Whanganui High School junior quartet were only hundredths short of the High School record set a week earlier in Inglewood. They finished second and know that with some work on changeovers are a realistic medal chance in Wellington next month.
Lucas Martin took another four seconds off his 3000m walk time (13:36.67) to break his own Collegiate record. He won by a wide margin from last year's New Zealand school champion Ryan Jones of Hastings.
Maggie Jones again took a 300m/80m hurdle double. The latter despite hitting and breaking the final hurdle in the longer race. Jones has made huge progress as has her High School team-mate Paris Munro. Nat Kirk, in his first major run over 300m hurdles, finished second to fellow High School athlete Connor Munro. Kirk is a junior demonstrating real promise for next month's Schools Championships.
Liam Back set the ambitious target of breaking four minutes for the 1500m and two minutes for the 800m within the hour allocated for the events on the programme. He also set the goal of winning both. He set the time goal stopping the clock at 3:58.05 (1500m) and 1:57.41 (800m).
He won the 1500m from former Collegiate team-mate William Sinclair and only a sluggish second lap cost a faster time. The opening lap in the 800m was also slow but Back came home in 56 seconds and had to settle for second to Mitchell Snell (Hastings) who won in a personal best 1:55.44. On Tuesday at club night Back ran his fastest 800m this calendar year with a 1: 54.94 performance.
Travis Bayler continued to work on his speed and had a slight improvement in 400m (50.51) for third but was not helped by a head wind in the 200m (23.22).
Jonathan Maples should be encouraged by his effort in both 100m (11.44) and 200m (22.87). Bayler impressed over 800m at Tuesday's club night with a 1:58.14 effort.
Maples' sister Genna was a big winner over 200m into a stiff wind (25.92) and had to settle for second behind team-mate Sophie Williams in the 100m (12.43).
Rebecca Baker and Sarah Lambert both opted to run in the slower of the male heats in the 1500m. Baker should be pleased with her time of 4:43.80 showing that she is coming into form while Lambert struggled a bit in her under-distance event. Lambert later won the 3000m (10:43.00) which has almost certainly clarified what events to run in at New Zealand Schools.
Ashleigh Alabaster had a good win over steeples winning by 20 seconds in 7:28.70. She backed this up with a good personal best in finishing second in her heat over 800m.
Alabaster further bettered this on Tuesday by three seconds stopping the clock in 2:20.93. Alabaster's training partner Ana Brabyn, last year's junior 800m champion, set a season best to finish 5th against older athletes in what should be a real confidence boost for next month's New Zealand Schools.
The final league meeting is in Masterton at the end of next week and for younger athletes is a vital final meeting prior to New Zealand Schools.