Christmas came early for three Whanganui High School hurdlers.
Maggie Jones, Nat Kirk and Flynn Johnston, coached by Greg Fromont, have been named in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team to compete at the Classic Meets in January and early February.
Although the New Zealand Schools Championships was cancelled, the Schools Association opted to continue the planned Tour to the Classic Meets as a replacement for lost overseas opportunities.
Forty athletes have been selected with athletes competing in two of the three Classic meetings in the lower North Island (The Potts Classic on Saturday, January 22, our own Cooks Classic at Cooks Gardens on Sunday, January 30, and the Capital Classic in Wellington on Friday, February 4).
There were more than 90 expressions of interest and selectors considered performances at both the North Island Schools held in April, performances between January and April, and performances at the last year's New Zealand Schools Championships in Tauranga.
The selectors were aware of the lack of competitions this summer, especially in Auckland and Waikato, and current performances were used in support of results earlier in the year.
Maggie Jones has had a long wait to earn her New Zealand singlet, having been selected in the New Zealand Schools team after the championships last year in Tauranga. Jones won the 300m hurdles at the 2020 championships and backed this up with a silver in the 100m hurdles. In April she won the North Island 300m/100m hurdles double, the former in a personal best 43.72, and in the 100m hurdles she was just two-hundredths of a second shy of her best of 14.57 seconds. Jones will run in the Oceania Permit 400m hurdles at the Cooks Classic at Cooks Gardens where she should better her time of 1:05.53 set a year ago at the same meeting.
Nat Kirk was third in the 300m and 110m hurdles at last year's New Zealand Schools. At the North Island Championships, Kirk took second in the 100m hurdles and fourth in the 300m hurdles having fallen at the penultimate hurdle. He, too, will return to the 400m hurdles at Cooks Gardens in January in New Zealand colours, seeking to better his excellent 56.05 at last year's Cooks Classic.
Flynn Johnston was fourth at last years New Zealand Schools in the 300m hurdles and was second at the North Island Championships in April. He won a silver medal in his maiden Athletics New Zealand Championships in the under-20 grade over 400m hurdles where he set his best of 57.64 for the demanding race with 10 hurdles between start and finish. He, too, will run over the 400m hurdles giving a real Whanganui flavour to the hurdles at the Cooks Classic on 30th January.
The selections continue Whanganui's strong representation in New Zealand Secondary Schools Team. The last Schools Team to leave New Zealand was a Cross Country Team to Wollongong in August 2019 when Rebecca Baker (Whanganui High School), Liam Back, Andres Hernandez, Sarah and George Lambert (Whanganui Collegiate School) were members of the team of 24 athletes.
The last Track and Field Schools Team that travelled to Cairns to the Australian All Schools Championships in 2018 had four Whanganui Collegiate athletes - Tayla Brunger, Genna Maples, Liam Back and Emma Osborne.
As mentioned in a previous Insight, Maggie Jones and Nat Kirk are already giving back something to the sport with their organisation of the children's section of the Athletic Whanganui Club on Monday evenings. Giving back is important and it was good to hear last week that Lucy Oliver (nee van Dalen), a Whanganui double Olympian (London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016), has ben appointed to the Athletics New Zealand Athletes' Commission.
I wish all readers a wonderful Christmas. My next column will be on Thursday, January 6, when I will preview the main events through to April .