The New Zealand Schools Cross Country scheduled for Saturday September 19 in Hawera has been cancelled – the latest coronavirus sporting casualty.
It has been a bad year for sport and runners have been hit particularly hard. The New Zealand Schools Road Race was cancelled in December because of weather and this year there has been a long list of cancellations. The large number of competitors in each race, compounded by Auckland still being in level 2.5 and no Government announcement expected about any change of level until 72 hours before the scheduled race, meant the cross country had to be cancelled. .
Whanganui Collegiate has offered a Teams Challenge on the proven Golf Course circuit on the Saturday, to be run under level 2 guidelines with limited fields using the successful protocols adopted for Whanganui Secondary Schools competition.
There has been considerable interest from schools who have traditionally fielded strong team combinations at the annual schools championships. Expression of interest closed last night and a decision on whether the races will go ahead will be made today. The Winter Track and Field Meeting on Sunday in Palmerston North drew more than 50 entries from the lower North Island. The meeting started with strong winds but the breeze dropped as the short meeting progressed and the rain stayed away until just after the finish.
The wind had dropped slightly by the start of the combined 1000m, 3000m, 5000m event but was still strong enough to make conditions less than favourable.
George Lambert was delighted with his first sub 9-minute run to win the 3000m. Lambert wisely did not go with the pace of the two 1000m competitors in the combined field.
This left Lambert running on his own for most of the 7½ lap journey. Lambert ran the first kilometre inside schedule by about three seconds, crossed the 2km mark right on six minutes and ran strongly solo over the last kilometre for a pleasing personal best, winning by 36 seconds with a significant barrier broken with his 8:58.16 effort.
Young Daniel Sinclair was a little outside his best, possibly paying the price of running the opening laps considerably inside his previous best. Sinclair looked good for much of the race. The 15-year-old is a name to note for the future.
Mackenzie Morgan struggled in the wind but surprised herself with a personal best over the distance (10:44.93). All three have another chance to end the cross country season on a high if the teams race goes ahead next weekend.
Genna Maples has clearly come through winter well, after starting the year with a severe loss of confidence and form, not helped by early season injury.
At the New Zealand championships in March Maples demonstrated she was on the road to recovery before Covid-19 abruptly ended the season. She lost out on the Whanganui Schools competition, the New Zealand team trip to Australia (Maples was captain) and North Island Schools races in April.
In Palmerston North Maples won the 60m, 200m and long jump, demonstrating excellent and encouraging performances and showing the benefit of a solid winter preparation.
The wind was at its strongest during the 60m race. Although slightly slow out of the blocks Maples came home well to record 8.01 into a huge 5.1 metre/second head wind.
Maples' Collegiate training partner Aria Carroll came out of the blocks superbly and led for much of the race. Carroll should be pleased with her second place (8.25) in the conditions.
Maples had a solid opening 5.40m jump in the long jump in her first competition since early March. She then had to cross the arena to run the 200m, which she won by a wide margin (25.53) in a light legal following wind.
She had missed a round in the long jump and sat out another allowing recovery time and then jumped 5.58m (wind +0.5 m/s). Maples should be encouraged by her early season efforts especially as the long jump take-off was 18cm from the front of the board.
Jacky Dai, New Zealand Schools Junior Boys triple jump silver medal winner and footballer with the Collegiate 1st X1 had an encouraging 12.41m win in the triple jump. His final jump looked better but a sudden vicious wind change put paid to that.
Team mate Ariana Drabble opened her season with a 9.43m effort.
The final round is in Masterton on September 27.