On a blustery spring Hawke's Bay day, Tayla Brunger captured the perfect legal tailwind of 2 metres per second to record her first legal sub-12-second 100 metres, stopping the clock at 11.96s in the first round of the Regional League at the weekend.
Later in the meeting, Brunger set her second legal best performance over 200m in an outstanding 24.76s with a 1.1 metre /second following wind. It is always encouraging for an athlete when they start a new season where they ended the previous one. In Christchurch in March at the New Zealand Championships, Brunger may have run the half-lap faster (24.17s) but in March she had the benefit of a strong tailwind. Brunger produced the top Whanganui performances at the first of three regional meetings.
Jacky Dai's win in the triple jump was one of five from Whanganui athletes. Last year Dai won a silver medal in the junior grade at New Zealand Schools and although he did not set a best in Hastings, he should be encouraged by his season opener of 12.42m snatching a 3cm win in the fifth round. Dai earlier had come only 3cm shy of his best in the long jump. In both horizontal jump competitions, Dai had a number of narrow fouls in the fickle changeable wind which was hard to handle. Dai should be encouraged by his early-season form.
In the same competition Dai's Collegiate training partner Jonty Tripe, who had earlier won a steeples in a mixed race (an unusual combination of events) had his first 12m triple jump to finish third. Half an hour later Keela Cashmore broke her own jump barrier with her first 10-metre triple jump to take fourth.
The opening meeting in the Regional League that covers the lower North Island alternates between Hastings and Inglewood. Both venues involve considerable travel distances for clubs and the opening meetings often attract low entries.
Whanganui had a young team with many more experienced athletes choosing to wait until round 2 on November 14 at Cooks Gardens or were in Hunterville at the "Shemozzle".
Not unexpectedly with a young team, Whanganui were unable to emulate their overall win of 2019, finishing fourth. The home meeting in 10 days' time, with the return of more experienced athletes, will help reduce the deficit. The other Whanganui event winners were Josephine Perkins in the girls' steeplechase and Pascale Bowie in the girls' 80m hurdles. Bowie had earlier taken a second off her 300m hurdle best.
There were, however, some hugely encouraging performances from the young team.
Theodora Gempton sliced another 7s from her best 1500m time to finish in 5m 3.08s to earn the 14-year-old third place. Daniel Sinclair had a similar improvement in the male race, finishing 11th in a large field. Sinclair, still a junior for New Zealand Schools, should be heartened by his progress and is beginning to shape up as a strong contender at Junior level.
Other bests came from Elliot Jones in the 3000m and Tom Hercus (also 3000m). There were many other pleasing first-up performances that bode well for future events. Sophie Andrews, who threw the 4 kilogram hammer for the first time for fifth place (34.18m) backed this up with a third in the discus (33.68m) and fifth in the shot (9.42m).
Many of the athletes who will strengthen the Whanganui team were on show on Tuesday at club night. Nat Kirk ran a national class 300m hurdles in a massive personal best of 39.41s. Kirk won the New Zealand Schools Junior 300m hurdles and this early season performance bodes very well for his senior debut.
New Zealand Schools junior girls 300m hurdle winner Maggie Jones was second in the mixed race and she, too, should be encouraged by her early season time of 46.85s.
George Lambert, who won the "Shemozzle" in Hunterville on Saturday, won Tuesday night's 2km road race in a personal best 5m 50.58s. Elliot Jones sliced eight seconds off his best time in finishing third in 6:32.80 while leading girl Josephine Perkins was just three seconds shy of her best.
Club captain Travis Bayler will make a welcome return to the team at the Regional League after showing good form on Tuesday. He won a tight and exciting 600m with Ben Conder (1m 27.41s and 1m 27.90s respectively) and won the 150m from Nat Kirk in a slick 17.45s.
The next round of the Regional League on Saturday, November 14 at Cooks Gardens provides an opportunity for local athletes as they challenge the best from the region.