Connor Bell once conceded he was a ‘big kid who liked to play PlayStation’ - now he is a discus Youth Olympic Games champion after completing the performance of his life.
“I am absolutely stoked with how I went out there,” Westlake Boys' High School's Bell said.
“I just feel like I’ve done an awesome job, coming out here and performing in front of the world’s best and I did so well and I’m just really proud of myself.”
It took two days and an average score of 133.08, from all throws, to secure gold - a dominant 18 metre victory.
“To get out on the board reasonably early in the competition was an absolute joy,” Bell said
Bell threw 66.84 metres to go well ahead of the rest, on day one of competition in Buenos Aires.
“I do not like to count my chickens before they hatch..” Bell said. “After that first throw [today], you know that was a big one, and that helped me relax a little bit.”
The 17-year-old, who was coach by Dame Valerie Adams for a few months early in his career, admits he felt the pressure coming into the Youth Olympic Games.
“There was quite a bit of pressure coming into this… a lot of emotion and I’m just pleased I was able to pull it off.”
For the first time during one of his competitions, the music was blaring and the New Zealand flag hung proud on the stands - and he used it to his advantage.
“I just had a bit of a dance, tried to shake all of the emotion out of me,” he said.
“The coolest part was when I went to throw, the crowd disappeared and it was just me and the discus.
Bell admits he has little time to celebrate the victory, knowing there are more milestones in his career that he’d like to achieve.
“This is a big tick off the checklist, it’s a big milestone… but moving forward World Juniors is the next check on the checklist.”
And after that, well, the world senior stage is calling too.
Interview courtesy of the NZOC - follow the Youth Olympics here
A team of Rathkeale College runners spearheaded by Senior Boys U19 winner Max Spencer were in good form at Wednesday’s College Sport Wellington Secondary Schools Road Running Championships. Spencer was a comfortable Senior Boys U19 winner on the clock, but a group of chasers headed by second placed finisher Toby Gualter of Tawa College gave him a tough race.
“It was a pleasing result and that was the first road race I had done in probably a year and a half,” Max said. “It was supposed to be a bit of a tempo run, I didn’t expect to be in the mix for the win.”
As well as Max, Rathkeale’s Kosta Mills finished third in the U16 Boys race, while Rathkeale’s year 9 team won their 3-person teams race just ahead of St Pat’s Silverstream. With 33 starters at the Trentham course, the Boys year 9 race was the biggest field of the day. The Senior Boys race was 6km and run over four 1.5km laps, which also suited Max. “Being used to track racing, it was nice to get that lap feel and hear the cheering from the Rathkeale boys when we ran past every time. I have also run a few 1500m races before so it was nice to get the split as I went past too.” Max explained how the race panned out.
“In the beginning there was quite a big pack of us, then after the first lap four of us pulled away. That was me Toby Gualter, Liam Chesney [St Pat’s Town] and one of the Silverstream runners.
“With about one lap to go it came down to three –Liam, Toby and myself – and I overtook Liam and then it became just me and Toby with about 1200m to go. After that, Toby put on three or four bursts and I didn’t know if I could stay with him and I was hanging on for dear life. He put in a massive burst in this puddle that we went in to and I knew I had to attack at that point and I managed to hold on to win.”
Max praised Toby. “He has only been in the sport for a year and he is an amazing athlete. It was a really impressive race for him and all credit to him, it was a fantastic battle.” Max is working towards a season on the track – with the 800m his specialty event.
“Most of my training is around the 800m and I am focused on that,” he said. “I am trying to get down to sub 1.50m and to 1.48m this coming season. That is the next challenge for me.”
Max, who was Wairarapa Secondary School Sportsperson of the Year in both 2016 and 2017, does most of his training in his home town of Masterton. His coach is Wayne Andrews-Paul, who used to live in the Wairarapa but now for the most part trains his athletes from his new home in the Bay of Plenty. At school, Rathkeale’s sports co-ordinator Scott Day is helping with the running programme and helping to organise the runners to attend as many regional and national events as they can. “We have got a really good influx of junior and intermediate talent at the moment at Rathkeale,” Max said.
Max’s next big meet is the NZSSA Track and Field Championships in Dunedin in December. Last December’s Senior Boys 800m was won in a minor upset by Central Southland College’s Dylan Forde in one of the more stirring races at the meet on Sunday afternoon in searing heat in Hastings. Forde pipped a competitive field at the line, winning the race in 1.54.57, with Macleans College’s Flynn Palmer second in 1.55.10, St Pat’s Town’s Josh Nairne third in 1.55.12 and Sacred Heart College’s Jono Ansley in fourth in 1.55.34.
Max was also in that race. “Unfortunately I had a bit of a shocker. I sort of got lost. With 300m to go they all started kicking and I just couldn’t stay in contention. Dylan ran an incredible tactical race, I watched it back on video and he nearly led from start to finish and still managed to kick at the end.” But Max had a good last half of the season.
“I managed to get my time down to 1.52m, and I managed to finish second at the Track Nationals behind Flynn Palmer [see above]. I tried to go out there and front-run, and it worked well until the last 150m. But Flynn really turned it on and I couldn’t quite keep up.”
Following this coming athletics season, Max is hoping to win a scholarship at a US university from mid-August 2019.
Meanwhile, in the In the Senior Boys teams three-person CSW road race, St Pat’s Town finished first with 21 points and Scots College second with 26 points. In the Senior Girls teams three-person race, Wellington Girls’ College won with 17 points, ahead of Wellington East Girls’ on 20 and Sacred Heart College on 54.
Results at a glance:
Senior Boys 6km (top 10 finishes)
1 324 Max SPENCER Rathkeale College 0:19:56
2 309 Toby GUALTER Tawa College 0:20:10
3 306 Liam CHESNEY St Patrick’s College, Town 0:20:19
4 315 Finn MOLLOY St Patrick’s College, Silverstream 0:20:38
5 326 Thomas STRAWBRIDGE St Patrick’s College, Silverstream 0:20:54
6 329 Mason WATERWORTH St Patrick’s College, Town 0:21:36
7 310 Callum HANCOCK Scots College 0:22:33
8 307 Oliver FAHEY Onslow College 0:22:54
9 328 Patrick WALL Scots College 0:23:09
10 323 George SLADDEN Scots College 0:23:14
Senior Girls U19 4km (top 10 finishes)
1 163 Tessa HUNT Wellington East Girls’ College 0:14:48
2 157 Emma DOUGLASS Wellington Girls’ College 0:15:31
3 158 Charlotte FLOODSMITH-RYAN Chilton St James School 0:15:37
4 166 Jayme MAXWELL Hutt Valley High School 0:15:59
5 160 Hannah GORDON St Mary’s College 0:16:25
6 151 Grace ALLAN St Oran’s College 0:16:40
7 156 Caitlin DOUGLASS Wellington Girls’ College 0:16:43
8 170 Olivia PUGH Wellington Girls’ College 0:17:03
9 171 Amy WALKER Wellington East Girls’ College 0:17:08
10 155 Grace CODY Wellington East Girls’ College 0:17:35
Other individual winners
AWD Girls 1.5km – Eleanor BASSETT Queen Margaret College 0:07:20
AWD Boys 1.5km – Isaiah KOUKA-ALBERT Heretaunga College 0:05:45
Year 9 Girls 3km – Katelyn SCEATS Chilton St James School 0:11:26
Year 9 Boys 3km – Jonah SEEDS Hutt International Boys’ School 0:10:23
Intermediate Girls 3km – Maali KYLE-FORD Wellington East Girls’ College 0:11:03
Intermediate Boys 4km – William ANTHONY Scots College 0:13:21
AWD, Year 9 and Intermediate team winners
AWD Boys – Rongotai College
Year 9 Girls – Wellington East Girls’ College
Year 9 Boys – Rathkeale College
Intermediate Girls – Wellington Girls’ College (3-person and 6-person winner)
Intermediate Boys – Scots College (3-person team)and St Pat’s Silverstream (6-person team)
Ashburton cross country runner Taonga Mbambo’s build-up to the Australian Cross Country Championships took a big leap forward last weekend.
The Ashburton member of the Canterbury University Athletics Club participated at the New Zealand Cross Country Championships as part of the Canterbury athletics team and from a field of 43 runners, finished third in the men’s under-18 race.
He covered the 6km distance is a time of 22.07 minutes to come home with a bronze medal.
With that done, he was now turning his attention to a trip to Australia later this month with the New Zealand secondary schools’ team where he’d compete in the Australian Cross Country Championships.
Mbambo said all he did would not have been possible without the help of the Ashburton community, which had supported him as he set about raising funds to be a part of that team to get to Australia.
It has been a big year for Mbambo.
Earlier this year he broke a record that had stood for 37 years at the Ashburton College athletics finals day, with his new record time of 9.24.8 minutes around six seconds faster than the previous record set by Bruce Gabites.
He then went on to set a new record for the under-19 men’s 3000m at the Aorakis, and at the South Island Secondary School Athletics Championships Mbambo was fourth in the under 19 men’s 3000m, finishing just seconds behind the winner in 9.01.39 minutes. He was also eighth in the 1500m.
At the Ashburton College school cross country he was first to cross the finish line in the 4km senior boys’ race in 12 minutes 47 seconds.
Mbambo was also part of the Ashburton College team that contested the Canterbury secondary schools’ road race in May.
The team was third overall, with Mbambo the fourth individual across the line. His selection into the New Zealand secondary schools’ cross country team to travel to the Australian Championships followed his sixth place finish at the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Cross Country in Taupo where he ran a time of 19.50 minutes.
Mbambo will travel to Australia’s Sunshine Coast in August for the Australian Open and Schools Cross Country Championships later this month.
Article courtesy of the Ashburton Guardian
The NZSSAA Cross Country Team is:
Samuel Tanner Bethlehem College
Liam Back Wanganui Collegiate
Murdoch McIntyre Westlake Boys High School
David Moore Westlake Boys High School
Stuart Hofmeyr Westlake Boys High School
Taonga Mbambo Ashburton College
Zach Bellamy Wanganui Collegiate
Hannah O'Connor Sacred Heart Girls' College (New Plymouth)
Kirstie Rae Wellington East Girls' College
Aimee Ferguson Rototuna Senior High School
Rebecca Baker Whanganui High School
Sarah Lambert Wanganui Collegiate
Olivia Cummings Otumoetai College
Esther Kozyniak St Catherine's College
Hannah O’Connor turned the heads of many who had never seen her run at Wellington’s Newtown Park a couple of summers ago when winning her 1500m race by almost 150 metres at the annual Capital Classic athletics meet. As Hannah was crossing the tape, the next runner was coming around the bend.
A not uncommon sight.
“I like running from the front, because I can then get out and not be stuck in traffic or be tripped up or anything. But I think it just works well for me because I can go out fast and keep going,” Hannah says.
On Saturday, the Sacred Heart Girls' College, New Plymouth, sports prefect comfortably won the Senior Girls title at the New Zealand secondary School Cross Country Championships in Taupo.
Hannah shot to the front early and eventually swatted away the chasers, winning the 4,000m event in 13.50 minutes, ahead of second placed Kirstie Rae (Wellington East Girls’ College) in 14:13 and third placed Aimee Ferguson (Rototuna Senior High School) in 14:18. Rebecca Baker from Wanganui High School was fourth and Sarah Lambert from Wanganui Collegiate fifth. There were 132 starters.
“It was a pretty awesome race for me, I just went out hard like I normally do and it happened to work for me,” Hannah enthuses.
The course was two 2km laps around Spa Park, and is a tough course. “It is quite an undulating course and there are two big hills.”
It was Hannah’s fourth consecutive schools cross country title, after winning the senior title in 2017 and the junior title in both 2015 and 2016.
“My goal was to get the four wins in a row. In year 9 I got second and I have won it ever since. So I was hoping to leave my mark on the secondary schools cross country on a high. There was lots of competition, so to be top three in an event like that is still amazing.”
Hannah’s next big race is in a few weeks at the North Island Cross Country Championships at the same venue. “That will be interesting to see how I run there, compared to how I went this past weekend!”
Hannah has had two trips overseas with New Zealand representative teams already this year.
In April she finished fourth and Aimee Fergusson was fifth at the ISF World Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Paris.
“I was pretty happy with that race, it was a great experience going away and competing against the different countries and making lots of new friends.” Hannah was the New Zealand team’s flag bearer at the event.
The race was won by an Australian, in a minor surprise. “She wasn’t the number one Australian team runner. It was quite an interesting course and a lot of favoured runners across the board didn’t do as well as they were expecting to do.”
Second was a runner from Morocco and third was an English girl who chased Hannah and Aimee down at the end and beat both kiwi athletes by a second.
In early May Hannah competed at the Melanesian Championships in Vanuatu, in a trial meet for the New Zealand U18 athletes hoping to make the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina in October. Hannah finished second in both the 3,000m and the 2,000m steeplechase races.
She is waiting to hear if she makes the Youth Olympics team for Argentina in October.
The format of the Youth Olympics in her events is unique in that competitors compete in a track distance event and a cross country race and the final placings and medals are determined by results across both together.
In December, Hannah hopes to compete in her final New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships in Dunedin. Last year in Hastings she was recovering from a foot injury and ran the 3,000m and finished third.
When did Hannah discover she could run fast?
“When I was 10 I entered the Taranaki Schools Cross Country Championships and I managed to win - the year before I got 24th and with a bit of training I won the next year worked out that you can achieve your goals.”
She soon joined the local Egmont Athletics club and her running career was born.
“My coach is Karen Gillum-Green and she started to coach me in year 9, just before my first New Zealand secondary School Cross Country Championships when I finished second.”
What about other sports?
“When I was in primary school through to year 10 I played netball and basketball quite competitively, and I still currently do surf lifesaving for the Fitzroy Surf Club. I do volunteer life guarding with them as well and occasionally compete for them as well.”
She is a former national U16, U19 and open title 2km beach run champion.
For now, running is her sole focus. “I train six days a week. I have long runs on Wednesdays and Sundays and then two or three speed and interval sessions and I try to go to the gym for some strength training once or twice a week.”
She is not too sure what she is doing next year, but university is definitely on the cards, either in New Zealand or possibly in the USA.
Above: Sam Tanner (71), leads Murdoch McIntyre (875) and Liam Back in Taupo on Saturday. Tanner was to win and Back was to pass McIntyre and finish second. PHOTO: New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics Association Facebook
Favourites Sam Tanner and Hannah O’Connor retained their senior titles at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Taupo on Saturday.
Tanner, from Bethlehem College in Tauranga, retained his senior boys title after a tussle with two of the other favourites, Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate) and Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake Boys).
Early leader Saxon Murphy from St Andrews Christchurch headed the field on the first lap but when McIntyre applied the pressure, only Back and Tanner were able to respond.
The three ran together for more than half the race until Tanner decided it was time to move.
First McIntyre and then Back fell off the pace and Tanner went on to record a 50m win over Back with another 40m back to McIntyre.
O’Connor, from Sacred Heart, New Plymouth, kicked away from the bunch from the outset and claimed the lead with Aimee Ferguson of Rototuna High School.
The three time gold-medalist extended her lead on the second lap and shurged aside Ferguson who faded to third place. Kirstie Rae (Wellington East Girls) finished strongly for second.
O’Connor’s won the 2015 and 2016 junior titles.
Westlake Boys’ High School finished second at the ISF World Cross Country Championships in Paris in April and have earned the right to send another team abroad by winning the senior 6000m six man event. The Westlake team of Murdoch McIntyre, David Moore, Stuart Hofmeyr, Jude Darby, Blair Hill and Arsh Kazi all competed in France a few months ago. Fellow Auckland school Baradene College won the senior female event.
Senior Girls 4000m (132 competitors)
1 Hannah O'Connor (Sacred Heart Girls NP) 13:50
2 Kirstie Rae (Wellington East Girls) 14:13
3 Aimee Ferguson (Rototuna Senior High) 14:18
Junior Girls 3000m (100 competitors)
1 Isabella Richardson (St Cuthbert's) 10:56
2 Maali Kyle-Ford (Wellington East Girls) 11:05
3 Maia Flint (Tauranga Girls) 11:08
Year 9 Girls 3000m (121 competitors)
1 Maia Wilkinson (Wellington East Girls) 11:12
2 Edie Kozyniak (St Catherine's College) 11:18
3 Anna Bassett (Wellington East Girls) 11:25
Senior Boys 6000m (182 competitors)
1 Samuel Tanner (Bethlehem College) 19:02
2 Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate) 19:10
3 Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake Boys) 19:18
Junior Boys 4000m ((156 competitors)
1 Toby Saxby (Westlake Boys) 13:21
2 Mac Rowe (New Plymouth Boys) 13:41
3 Ben Ruscoe (Westlake Boys) 13:44
Year 9 Boys 3000m (142 competitors)
1 Christian De Vaal (Macleans College) 9:57
2 Mathijs Wetzels (Hamilton Boys) 10:08
3 Joseph Morgan (Hamilton Boys) 10:13
Para Athlete Boys 2000m
1 Anton Besseling (New Plymouth Boys) 7:46
2 Josh Taylor (Wairarapa College) 9:08
3 Jacob Lowson (Papanui High) 9:30
3 person teams results: https://nzssaa.org.nz/static/nz-xc-2018/results/3-person-teams.pdf
6 person teams results: https://nzssaa.org.nz/static/nz-xc-2018/results/3-person-teams.pdf
Oppressively hot weather and a largely unsuitable diet wasn't enough to prevent Connor Bell from reasserting his status as the best Under-18 discus thrower in the World at the Micronesian Athletics Championships in Vanuatu.
The product of Westlake Boys’ High School threw 64.47m in confirming his spot at the Junior Olympics in Argentina in October. If Bell repeats that throw he will break the youth Olympic record.
However Bell wasn’t entirely happy with his performance.
“64.47 is my third best throw. Last year at Secondary School Nationals I had two better throws of 65.63m my PB and 64.90m. I’m striving to throw 70-metres by the end of the year,” Bell complains.
He needed just three throws at the schools nationals in Hastings to break the meet record, with
Auckland Grammar School’s Herman Metuaiviivitoa second and Wellington College’s Sean Howe third.
In March this year he won the Auckland Secondary Schools senior discus title by a dozen metres, throwing a meet record 62.33m.
The hot and variable weather took some getting used to in Vanuatu.
“The sun was very energy sapping and the wind unpredictable. It took me awhile to adjust and warm to my work,” Bell reveals.
Much of local diet also contrasted with Bell’s needs.
“It was very starch heavy which isn’t the best for me. I had to be watchful of what I ate to be in the right condition to compete,” Bell explains.
Bell will be training six times a week in the lead up to Argentina. How does he intend on guarding against complacency?
“There is an Italian throwing 63 and a half metres and a Norwegian and Spanish thrower around 62 metres so I can’t afford to be complacent and have to keep working hard,” Bell responds.
Bell was being coached by Olympic shot put champion Dame Valerie Adams, but this has temporarily stopped with Adams on a recent competitive break after giving birth to her first child.
Bell is the under 18 and 20 national discus champion and had the world’s leading throw in 2017.
Bell perfected his technique by studying hours of video footage of German discus legends Lars Riedel and Robert Harting and Estonia's 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter.
In his spare time Bell is interested in Biology and diving.
The Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be held from October 6 -18 with the participation of almost four thousand athletes from 206 countries.
New Zealand expects to send a team of up to 80 athletes to contest the third edition of the Youth Olympic Games
Read our previous story (2017) with Connor Bell at:
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