Perseverance and a willingness to improvise in achieving goals can be major contributors to success in sport.
At the weekend, Lexi and Jonathan Maples and other athletes confirmed this at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field Championships in Hastings
In last week's Insight, I expressed my admiration for athletes who stuck with the sport through school without tangible rewards.
Lexi Maples was a prime example with her only individual success at school coming in a New Zealand heptathlon with a silver medal. Maples went to Christchurch in 2018 to follow her heptathlon ambition but switched to hammer last year.
She now trains with New Zealand throws coach Dale Stevenson and a top group of throwers that includes Dame Valerie Adams, Tom Walsh and Lauren Bruce. Maples has made solid progress with sound performances at the Classic meets.
In Hastings, Maples had an excellent series of throws to win her maiden individual medal (bronze) for Canterbury, throwing 51.76 metres. Maples had started her hammer throwing while at Collegiate with coach Richard Drabczynski, who clearly gave her a sound start and, when determination and perseverance were added to the mix along with a positive well-coached group, rewards have followed.
Jonathan Maples who joined the Airforce and went on his basic training in Blenheim has not competed since 2019. Maples has trained without a track or equipment in Blenheim.
He has adapted and improvised using a tennis net for some creative repetition hurdle sessions. Maples was rewarded in Hastings with a bronze medal and a respectable personal best (56 .25).
The days of training without equipment will hopefully be over as he moves to Ohakea in May. Maples also made it through to the 200 metre final only to find he was disqualified for a line infringement (a lesson there) and was the fastest in the Manawatu/Whanganui 4 x 400 relay team who gave a bold account of themselves in the senior final.
Lucas Martin retained his 10,000m under-20 walk title. Although slower than last year, he was on schedule for a new best at the halfway stage but as his fellow competitors were disqualified for walking infringements and as he was on a caution, he eased back to guarantee his title. Martin, still only 16, has won a title at all his three national championships.
There may be low entries in 400-metre hurdle and steeplechase events but these disciplines are tough and among the most demanding on the track and field programme.
This clearly deters many athletes. Flynn Johnston took silver in the under-20 400m hurdles at his first championships and as evidenced at both Whanganui Schools and through recent club nights, 17-year-old Johnston has real potential. He was also part of the young 4 x 400 team which included Jonathan Maples, Travis Bayler and Palmerston North athlete Aiden Porritt.
George Lambert, who had been sick earlier in the week, finished a creditable 5th in the under-20 5000m (2000m further than he had to run while in the under-18s).
The 3000m steeplechase was not only 1000m longer than he encountered last year but the barriers were also higher. He set a best over 5000m (15m 44.56s) and was rewarded with a silver medal in the steeples (10m 05.30s). His team-mate Ben Conder took bronze in his 3000m steeplechase debut.
The other Whanganui athlete competing at the postponed championships was Sophie Andrews, who should be delighted with her personal best 38.96m effort for 4th place in the under-20 hammer. Andrews is another athlete who has demonstrated perseverance over many years and will hopefully follow Lexi Maples by remaining in the sport. Andrews should be encouraged by Maples' medal in the senior hammer as she is throwing further than Maples at the same stage of her career.
Former Whanganui athlete and current New Zealand decathlon champion Max Attwell, competing for Canterbury, won bronze in the long jump by the narrowest margin (1cm) and backed this up with silver in the pole vault.
Unfortunately, he injured himself attempting 4.63m in the vault and will be in plaster for some weeks.
Tayla Brunger, now competing for Waikato, retained her 100m under-20 title with a slick 11.78s but had to settle for second in the 200m in 24.57s. Whanganui's loss has been Waikato's gain with Brunger running in gold medal-winning combinations in both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400.
Unfortunately, Genna Maples who qualified for the 200m under-20 final struggled in with injury, having been very well placed as she came into the home straight. Maples will have to show both perseverance and adaptability as she builds for her future.