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:
“My love of the 200 has drawn me back towards it. I’ve only ran it twice competitively in the last year, but my world ranking is better in the 200 metres than it is the 100 metres,” Dominic Overend explains of his sudden focus on 200 metres sprinting.
Last year an overgrown bone in the right heel led to surgery and a temporary abandonment of the 200 metres following difficulty turning around the bend.
In March, Overend’s greater concentration on the 100 metres resulted in him running a blistering 10.57s to win the U20 Australian Championships.
The Auckland Grammar School student recently qualified for the Junior Olympics in Argentina in October after winning the 100m/200m double at the Micronesian Athletics Championships in Vanuatu.
Battling a stiff breeze, Overend ran 11.02s in winning the 100m while he set a personal best of 21.54s in capturing the 200m title, a result achieved with only two competitive races.
In the U18 age group, Overend is ranked 50th in the world in the 100m and 24th in the 200m.
“The wind was really variable so when I ran the heat of the 100 I clocked 10.83 as opposed to 11.02 in the final 45 minutes later. In the heats of the 200 my coach [Matthew White] told me to take it easy so I qualified second,” Overend reveals.
Overend, whose grandfather was a national triple jump and sprint champion, dropped competition a month prior to Vanuatu to prepare for the 200. Increasing the “volume of his output” and enjoying the assistance of a slight tailwind paid dividends.
“There was only a short break between the heats and the finals which was a good because it didn’t allow the nerves to build up too much. I was happy with my start and my foot held up well so it felt good down the straight. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m going to the Olympics,” Overend enthused.
Overned will spend most of the winter training with his next target Mark Kendal’s U18 200m record of 21.37s.
At this stage Overend will be joined in Argentina by fellow Kiwis Connor Bell (Westlake BHS) and Kayla Goodwin (Sacred Heart College, Hamilton).
Bell threw 64.47m (an Olympic Youth record) in claiming the Micronesian discus title while Kayla Goodwin of Hamilton who turned 17 on 24 April, set two New Zealand age group records with her winning performance and PB of 12.62m in the triple jump. This breaks Bridgette Pateman’s 1997 U18 record of 12.45m and Pateman’s 1998 U19 record of 12.60m. Goodwin also had a PB in the long jump with her third placing of 5.78m.
Read our previous story with Kayla Goodwin in February this year here:
World U18 Records
100m: Anthony Schwartz (USA) - 31/3/2017, Gainesville, Florida - 10.15
200m: Usian Bolt (Jamaica) - 20/7/2003, Bridgetown, Barbados - 20.13
World U18 Best Times 2018
100m: Sachin Dennis, 16, (Jamaica), 23/3/18, Jamaica - 10.20
200m: Sean Burrell, 16, (USA), 18/4/2018, USA - 20.77
“I was always that skinny kid who could run,” Murdoch McIntyre responds when asked where he discovered his passion for running.
The Year 12 student at Westlake Boys’ High School is the owner of four gold medals at the National Secondary Schools Championships and recently won a silver medal with the six-man Westlake team at the ISF World Cross Country Championships in Paris. The French success was the best part of a year in the making.
“We qualified in June by winning the National Secondary Schools title. We had to do a decent amount of fundraising to get to France as it cost us six grand each to go, but the school was hugely supportive and we raised the money with little stress,” McIntyre reveals.
In fact the most stressful decision in the buildup was who would replace Joseph Clark, a New Zealand cross country representative, who had left school.
“Losing Joe was a big blow because he was one of the quicker guys in the team, but we had five or six guys who were capable of stepping up and eventually Blair Hill was picked,” McIntyre explains.
Westlake spent a week preparing in London. The jogs around Hyde Park weren’t relished.
“It was freezing, no more than two degrees most days. It toughened us up for sure,” McIntyre complains.
Fortunately conditions were much warmer in Paris, but the track wasn’t a typical cross country course.
“The race was held in the heart of Paris. There was no grass or mud, we ran past the Eiffel Tower which was awesome, but a little different from normal,” McIntyre says.
The race was attended by the French Minister of Sports Laura Flessel and Education Jean-Michel Blanquer. Additionally former Olympic and World champion Hicham El Guerrouj was present and later shared a photograph with the Westlake team.
The field featured 600 athletes from 34 countries along with a crowd of more than 5000 and 300 volunteers.
“We wanted to run our best and if we did that we would have been satisfied with the result no matter where we finished. It’s hard to know what to expect at these events,” McIntyre admits.
The race was held over 5,300m and the finishes of the top four runners are used to calculate the overall team result. Istvan Palkovits from Hungary was the individual champion and Morocco the team champion.
“Sometimes you get a field and conditions which favour you and that’s what we got. The boys were stoked with the result. Sacred Heart got second two years ago. I would love to have raced them. I think we're better,” McIntyre laughs.
McIntyre is hopeful of much more international travel in 2018. In May he’ll head to the Melanesian Regional Championships in Vanuatu to compete in the steeplechase with the hope of qualifying for the Youth Olympics in Argentina in October.
Westlake BHS - ISF World Cross Country Championships Results
5th: Murdoch McIntyre, 16:41
10th: David Moore, 16:57
13th: Stuart Hofmeyr, 17:01
21st: Daniel Robertson, 17:11
28th: Zach Keenan, 17:24
47th: Blair Hill, 18:03
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