Whanganui athletes returned from New Zealand Secondary Schools at Tauranga at the weekend with 10 medals, and as two of these were team medals a further five athletes returned home with additional baggage.
Tayla Brunger, representing Te Aho O Te Kura Pounamu (Correspondence School), took gold in both the 100 metres and 200 metres to be the most successful Whanganui athlete.
The former Whanganui Collegiate sprinter, who at the pre-lockdown New Zealand Championships in March won the under 20 sprint double and silver in the 400 metres, added to her impressive CV in Tauranga.
Conditions did not favour fast 100-metre times and although the time of 12.25 may seem modest, there was a strong headwind (3.5 m/s) and the manner of her win was impressive. In the 400 metres, Brunger came home with purpose and power to pull away from the talented Holly Rule (Whangārei Girls High School) and Annalies Kalma (St Peters School Cambridge). The winning time was 56.06 seconds.
Whanganui High School had an impressive championship, winning five medals and and having an encouraging number of finalists, which will be reported on next week.
Maggie Jones, who took the junior hurdles double last year, won the 300 hurdles in her senior debut with an impressive personal best, a feat repeated in the 100 metres where she ran an outstanding 14.57 into a stiff 2.6 m/s headwind to take the silver medal.
Jones ran 44.97 in the heat of the 300-metre hurdles to qualify second fastest to Genna Maples (Collegiate), who ran 44.86. Jones improved in the final to set a new best of 44.71.
Unfortunately, Maples sustained a serious back injury and had to withdraw, depriving those in Tauranga of a race that had shaped to be epic. Jones was smooth in the execution of her win in 44.71, with second-placed Alicia O'Connor over a second behind.
Jones later ran in the 4th-placed Whanganui High School 4x100 team and in the 4x400 team that was 7th - a busy weekend for this talented young athlete. Jones was named in the New Zealand Schools paper team that gives her access to travel assistance to major meets.
Nat Kirk (Whanganui High School), also on his senior debut, won a brace of bronze medals over 300-metre and 110-metre hurdles. In the former he confirmed his excellent recent form, stopping the clock at 39.25.
In the latter, where he has had few competitive outings, he qualified 4th in 16.24 and improved to 15.66 in the final into a stiff headwind. He also played a major role in High School's relays as a member of the 6th-placed 4x100 and the 4th-placed 4x400 combinations.
Mackenzie Morgan (Whanganui Collegiate), who missed much of the build-up with injury, ran superbly to take second in the Road Race in her fastest ever 4000-metre time (15:11).
Morgan also added a bronze medal as part of the three to score team event alongside teammates Sarah Matthews and Lucy Monckton. Morgan joined Maggie Jones in the New Zealand Schools paper team. It is clear that Morgan is on the road to full recovery.
Lucas Martin (Collegiate) renewed his battle with Daniel du Toit (Te Aho O Te Kura Pounamu) and for the third consecutive time had to settle for silver in the 3000-metre walk to his Wellington rival.
The race was tactical in the windy conditions and thus the time was relatively slow. However, Martin has narrowed the gap on his older and talented rival as he continues to develop in this demanding discipline.
Whanganui's other medal came from the mixed 4x400 junior 4x400 team. The Whanganui High School team of Teresa and Carrie Rennie, Alistair Cameron and Thomas Gowan completed the race in 4:09.50. A disqualification of the St Margaret's team saw the team promoted onto the podium.
The mixed relay was introduced last year and follows the International debut at the last World Athletics finals. It is an exciting addition to the programme. The rules allow teams to run males or females where they choose, adding a tactical dimension to the event.
The High School bronze medal is just reward for a group of young athletes who have made steady progress at club nights through the season.
Next week I will feature the large group of athletes who may not have won a medal but distinguished themselves in finals and in almost all cases return next year encouraged by their 2020 efforts.