"Old soldiers never die - they just fade away." The same could probably be said of administrators and officials in so many New Zealand sports.
I remember standing at the fence of the old Queen Elizabeth II Park in Christchurch at one of the last track and field meetings there before it and much of Christchurch was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake. I was listening to two young athletes remark on how old the officials were. I replied that I had said the same a couple of decades earlier but sadly, the old officials were the same officials from 20 years earlier.
Athletics Whanganui has been aware of the need for fresh faces on our committee and the need for a major input from our younger members as they make up the bulk of our membership. This initiative has become very much part of the club's development plan.
Last year I highlighted the work of Whanganui Collegiate student Anna Dai who has officiated regularly and produced our results over the past season. Anna leaves at the end of this year and is helping train a successor before her departure.
I also highlighted the work of club captain Travis Bayler, who in 2018 won the New Zealand schools senior boys 400m title in Dunedin and ran in successful Whanganui High School relay teams. He did a sterling job as club captain serving on our committee.
He also took on the organisation of Monday evening's Children's Club. Travis has moved out of Whanganui, but not before securing a successor from his Whanganui High School training group.
We are delighted that Maggie Jones has agreed to help with the children's section on Monday evenings. Jones won the North Island schools 100m and 300m hurdle titles in April and is New Zealand schools 300m hurdle champion, and played a key role in successful Whanganui High School relay combinations.
On reflecting over the past two years, she views her career highlight as winning the junior 80m and 300m hurdle New Zealand schools titles in 2019, as this "cemented my love of the hurdling events".
Jones is attracted to the technically challenging aspects of those events as well as the fitness and conditioning demands of hurdling.
Jones is looking forward to the challenges of presenting the sport and fundamental movement skills to children in a fun and supportive environment. She fondly remembers her own early years in the sport and, refreshingly for a successful young athlete, is aware of the vital role of volunteers and the need to give back to the sport. We wish her well and hope she is well supported by parents and other athletes.
Lucas Martin is another year 12 athlete who understands the importance of volunteering and giving back to the sport. The Whanganui Collegiate School race walker retained his New Zealand under 20 track walk title this year and also won the 2020 Athletics New Zealand road walk title, setting age-group records on his way to victory. Martin sees that track 2020 title as the highlight of his career to date.
"It was just a very special race. I had a smile the whole time like I was a spectator watching the race I was competing in. This was because having Quentin Rew (three-time Olympian) and fellow Olympian Alana Barber also competed in the combined race with Rew breaking his own NZ record for the event"
Martin has completed his first year on the club committee. As a race walker he decided to qualify as a walks judge and officiated at the Colgate Games as a practical part of the
course. He has officiated on many occasions as part of the photo finish timing team and has offered to help with the club website.
Both Martin and Jones have high goals for the year ahead and in the sport after school in 2023. This includes a desire to wear the black singlet and follow illustrious predecessors.
Both in the meantime will support their school team and clubmates. As Martin said: "I look forward to seeing just how fast my body can go, and if I can break any boundaries that I put on myself. Hot summer training where time just seems to disappear and at the meets losing your voice cheering on my teammates".
We as a club look forward to the invaluable contribution these two and other talented leading young athletes give to the club.