Hannah Gapes (John Paul College) powers to a convincing victory in the Senior Girls race at the 2021 NZSS Cross Country Championships. PHOTO by Nesport Photography - more photos at www.nesport.co.nz
Hannah Gapes was confident that she could win, but she surprised herself just as much as her competitors with the ease of her victory in the Senior Girls race at the 47th New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Hawera this past Saturday.
In cold, wet conditions overhead and a heavy, muddy course underfoot, John Paul College, Rotorua year 13 runner Hannah blitzed the field to win by almost a minute to second placed Bella Earl (Whangārei Girls' High School) and with Chloe Browne (St Cuthbert’s College) finishing third.
“I had a plan to go out hard, but I was expecting people to come with me, but they didn’t, so I just kept going and extending my lead,” she said.
Hannah quickly established a lead on the first lap of two. She led by 25 seconds after the first 2km lap and more than doubled that by the end.
Was she aware she was so far ahead?
“I am the NZ U20 5000m track champion [from earlier this year] so I had raced against some of the other competitors, and I knew pretty much how they would run their races. My plan was to push hard from the start and see what happened.
“I had quick looks behind when I was running around the corners and when I was going through for the second lap and I looked back and I couldn’t see anyone. I was thinking to myself have I gone out too fast, am I doing this wrong?
“Then when spectators started clapping me in and congratulating me over the last 600m I knew I had done it!”
How did the conditions come into it?
“I compete in the Tough Guy and Gal Challenge event - which is an extreme mud run. So I was kind of prepared and confident going into it, I like the mud I guess!”
Conditions changed on race eve.
“I wanted a speedy run on a fast course, and it was looking like it the day before when we were walking the course. But then overnight forecast rain arrived and the whole course changed, and it turned into a mud run.”
Hannah had two John Paul College teammates competing in her race, with Poppy Martin finishing 32nd and and Jessica Lamb 50th. There were 98 starters in the Senior Girls race and a total of 748 runners from 130 schools taking part, competing in six races on Saturday.
Hannah backed up her win with another strong run in the team’s relay on Sunday, an inter-regional event. Competing for Waikato-Bay of Plenty, she stormed through in the last leg to lift to team from eighth to third. Auckland A won and Southland were second.
“I gave it all on my 2km relay leg. It was really exciting for the team because none of them had ever won any national medals.”
A New Zealand secondary schools cross country team has been selected after this weekend, but this is a paper team only as the ongoing covid climate (pre-Wednesday this week) has meant that our athletes will not be competing in Australia like that they have in past years.
Hannah thanked her coach Jason Cameron for helping her do so well this weekend.
“My coach Jason prepared me really well for this, his smart training coaching is preparing me to compete for the future and is definitely what has helped me. He lives in Rotorua and runs with me which is also really beneficial.”
Hannah is part of a five-strong training squad. Her favourite run in Rotorua is in the Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest.
This is Hannah’s third major race win in the past six months, having won the NZSS Senior Girls 1500m title last December and then backed that up with the NZ U20 Women’s 5000m win.
She said her 1500m win was borne out of disappointment at missing out on gold in the Senior Girls 3000m race two days prior.
“I came second in the 3000m and that made me determined to give it my all and it was a shock for me to win that race.”
She backed that up with third in the 1500m in the New Zealand Championships before winning the 12-lap race.
“I prefer the long-distance events, and if you make a mistake in the 1500m it can go very wrong, so I had been training for the 5000m. That was similar to the cross country in that I took an early lead and kept extending it as the race developed – that is kind where the plan for the cross country came from.”
Hannah said the competitive nature of her rivals is helping to bring out the best in her, many of them being upper North Island based too.
When did Hannah discover she could run fast?
“I was always really active growing up and I played as many sports as I could. The cross country was part of the primary school programme and I fell in love with winning and the thrill which comes with it.”
Running is her main sport, but she still plays tennis in the summer and does some mountain biking, and she used to play hockey and do rock climbing.
Despite the selected NZSS team not going to Australia, Hannah has some big cross-country races coming up that she is back training for.
“I have the North Islands in two weeks in Taupo and then Nationals coming up in early August in Dunedin and that leads on to selection for the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia, next February.”
The NZSS Track and Field Championships are back in Taranaki this year, in Inglewood and scheduled from 3-5 December.
The other contenders at the start line could have been forgiven for not knowing who Maeghan Casey was.
She only took up running three months ago – but she already has two major College Sport Wellington titles to her name.
Last Wednesday she won the College Sport Wellington Regional Senior Girls Cross Country title, in her first ever competitive cross country race. In March she won the Senior Girls 3000m at the CSW Regional Track and Field Championships, in her second race on the track.
It is fair to say that the year 13 St Mary’s College, Wellington, student with a rowing background has taken to her new sport with gusto.
Wednesday’s cross country race saw her beat a competitive field of seasoned runners, winning the 4km distance by 8 seconds to second placed Eliza Squire (Wellington East Girls’ College), with third placed Katelyn Sceats (Wellington Girls’ College) a further 9 seconds back in third.
Not knowing what to expect, she said the best course of action was to take the frontrunning approach.
“My idea was to get out in front and then try and hold my place, rather than try and catch up to the leaders, “she said, “so from early on I did that and managed to stay there until the end.”
“I was hoping I wasn’t going to burn myself out, because I didn’t know what pace everyone else was going to be running at. I just kind of went for it and hoped I would have enough energy left!”
Next up is the 47th New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Hawera on 19 and 20 June.
What prompted her to suddenly take up running at the start of her final year in school?
“I decided to sign up to run at the school athletics day. This was then rained off, so I was asked if I wanted to give the Wellington girls zone meet a go, so I thought I’d go and I finished second in the 3000m.
“I was then offered a run at the regional meet, so with the [rescheduled] school meet in between, I entered that and managed to win there. This was quite exciting for me as I didn’t train with anyone.”
Having her own running spikes for the first time also helped. “In the first race I was wearing my ordinary shoes, then for the school meet I borrowed someone else’s spikes and then I bought my own in time for the regionals.”
Next she went to the North Island Secondary School Track and Field Championships, again not knowing what to expect, finishing mid-table in the SG 3000m. “I didn’t really have a strategy for that race. I just went out really fast and burned myself out by the end.”
Of note, the winner of that same race, Penelope Salmon (Baradene College), broke a 36-year old NISS meet record.
It was about this point that Maeghan was asked by coach John Cope if she wanted to start training with a group of runners, so she joined the Olympic Harriers club.
Starting the winter running season for Olympic Harriers, she made her off-track debut in early May as part of the Olympic Harriers Women’s U20 team that won the University Relays at Queen Elizabeth Park.
She ran in her new track spikes in that event, prompting her to call into the sports shop on the way home that afternoon to buy her first pair of cross-country spikes – footwear that propelled her to victory last Wednesday in her first proper off-track race.
Maeghan may be new to running, but not to competitive sport.
“I have rowed since year 9 and I am a single sculler.”
“This year at Maadi Cup I won the B final [ninth overall] in the U17 Single Sculls. I also came second in the same race at the North Island Club Championships.”
She has also played football in the past and was her school’s second XI goalkeeper until recently.
Her new sport of running has opened future possibilities.
“I was thinking of trying to go to university in the States for rowing, but now running could be an option too if I train hard for the rest of this year.”
She is now training with a group on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while she is also going out for a couple of runs by herself. Living in the northern suburbs she nominates Mt Kaukau as a favourite training ground.
In July 2018, Ollie Krijnen was playing football at Fraser Park when his temperamental back completely imploded.
“It just went. I’d been in pain for a couple of weeks but thought nothing of it. I was chasing a through ball and just fell over. I was in agony and had to be carried off the field,” Krijnen recalled.
For the next year Krijnen was unable to compete in competitive sprinting - denied the chance to push for the National Junior 100 metres title which he was odds-on to win.
“There was a grieving process. I really struggled with school and was in denial about it for months,” Krijnen admitted.
“The school was really supportive offering me a counsellor and my orthopaedic surgeon is my hero. Basically I had to rest the back and slowly re-strengthen it.”
The restless Krijnen would initially walk for nine minutes and sprint for one minute, increasing the running time as his fitness improved. Additionally core exercises were performed to make the back muscles more “compact.”
“Being out so long was humbling. It helped me mature and appreciate the good things I have. My back is always in the back of my mind, but I’ve learned how to manage things better,” Krijnen reflected.
In September, Krijnen at last resumed competition sprinting and two weeks before this past weekend’s New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field Nationals ran a PB of 11.30 in Palmerston North.
“I knew things were going nicely when I ran a PB in Palmerston North. I was worried about a couple of guys at Nationals who I’d beaten in close races, but Palmy gave me a lot of confidence,” Krijnen revealed.
The weather at Newtown Park gave nobody confidence. A swirling wind and heavy track was a great leveller.
“The rain was in our faces and the wind actually changed from a head wind to a cross wind before the start. It was hard to bounce off the track, you had to be careful at the start,” Krijnen said.
Krijnen managed a clean start and building speed in the middle helped him claim national honours in 11.34.
He powered to the finish line in an outside lane, edging Orewa College’s Ethen Lagatule into second and Paraparaumu College’s Ben Lambert into third.
Two other College Sport Regional athletes were in the Junior Boys 100m final, Lambert’s Paraparaumu College teammate Max Tofts who came fifth and Hutt International Boys Schools’ Tyrone Trego who brought home the eight-sprinter field.
“It means a lot to win after everything my coach, family and I have been through. I just want to thank everyone for their support,” Krijnen said.
Krijnen was Silverstream’s first national gold medallist since Fletcher Greaves won the junior 400m title in 2011.
Senior 100m champion Edward Osei-Nketia was seen congratulating Krijnen after his success.
“He’s a real nice guy who has lifted the profile of the sport,” Krijnen enthused.
Krijnen was captain of the Silverstream athletics team that won the Neville Shield against St Pat’s Town, claiming individual victories in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
In the summer Krijnen will compete in the Capital and Cook Classics and he’s been selected in a New Zealand relay team that will partake in a series of summer fixtures.
Three national titles and a meet record.
All achieved in perhaps the most difficult weather conditions that could have been served up at the Newtown Park Stadium on Saturday and Sunday at the 47th NZSSA Track and Field Championships.
Lashings of wind and rain on both days didn’t faze Quinn Hartley, who won all three Junior Boys jump titles, which included a new meet record of 6.94m +0.4 in the long jump.
The tall, laid back James Hargest College athlete won the long jump title on Saturday morning and then followed it up in the afternoon with the triple jump win. On Sunday he returned to take the high jump.
Talking after his long jump win, he expressed his satisfaction in winning and breaking the record.
“It feels great to have done that, I really wanted to do that going into the competition and all the training is paying off,” he said.
Hartley’s previous personal best in the long jump was 6.43m, so he broke this by half a metre.
He actually broke the record twice. “The big jump was my fifth jump, but in my first jump I got out good and did 6.81m which was 2cm more than the record.”
The previous record was held by Kelvin Sefton of Pukekohe High School - set in 1974.
In winning the triple jump later that day, Hartley jumped 13.34m, which was 6cm short of the record. On Sunday the wind had died down somewhat, but lashings of moderate to heavy rain dominated the competition. He won the high jump with a clearance of 1.94m.
Second placed Harvey Meyer of Whanganui Collegiate also jumped a high jump PB with 1.83m.
Hartley went into the national championships having broken the Southland U16, U18 and U20 high jump records with a jump of 2.03m.
This backed up his performance at the Athletics New Zealand meet in March, winning the men's under-18 high jump with a leap of 1.91m.
Hartley went one better than last year at the NZSS meet in Dunedin, when he also won gold in the junior long and triple jumps while collecting a bronze in the high jump.
He has just finished year 11, so 2019 was his final year as a junior.
Hartley started athletics when he was a youngster “doing all the events.”
“But I have really grown to like jumping over the past four years or so.”
Hartley thanked all the people who have supported him, not least his coach Chris Knight and his parents who supported him in Wellington all weekend.
What is coming up over the summer? “I am doing the Cooks Classic [Whanganui], the Potts Classic [Hastings] and Jumps to Music in Hawera as well.” Plus the New Zealand Track and Field Championships in Christchurch in early March.
In the winter he also plays social football for a school to keep up his fitness.
A big future in athletics beckons.
NZSSA Track & Field Championships Junior Boys jumping results at a glance:
1.Quinn Hartley (James Hargest College) 6.94m PB record
2. Angus Lyver (Palmerston North Boys’ High School) 6.33m
3. Ari Koed Chang (Wellington College) 5.96m
1.Quinn Hartley (James Hargest College) 13.34m
2. Jacky Dai (Whanganui Collegiate) 12.65m
3. Ethan Gow (Lincoln High School) 12.51m 3.
1.Quinn Hartley (James Hargest College) 1.94m
2. Harvey Meyer (Whanganui Collegiate) 1.83m
3. Levi Ferguson (Middleton Grange School) 1.80m
A patient race and a determined kick up the home straight gave Whanganui Collegiate’s Liam Back the 2019 Senior Boys 1500m title at a wet and wild Newtown Park in Wellington on Sunday in the NZSSA Track and Field Championships.
For the second consecutive year, the Senior Boys winner of the blue ribbon 1500m was also the current NZSS Cross Country champion, after Bethlehem College’s Sam Tanner won the title in 2018.
Sunday’s win was anything but plain sailing for Back, who reeled in former school teammate and now Te Kura athlete Will Sinclair with about 30 metres to run and then held off fast-finishing King’s College runner and Saturday’s Senior Boys 3000m winner Zane Powell to win at the tape.
Back was elated to win, after coming second to King’s College’s James Harding in the final of the 800m.
“It was a tough race earlier in the day in the 800m, so to come through with a couple of good laps really set it up for a good sprint finish and I just managed to beat my training partner Will Sinclair in the final few metres," he said.
Back ran the perfect 1500m race, sitting in just behind the leaders for most of the race, who included at various stages Timaru Boys’ High School’s George Guerin, St Peter’s School’s James Corbett and Powell and Burnside High School’s Daniel Roswell.
“I had to run that race like that – I ended up burning up in the 800m, so I knew that I had to leave it right to the end to come through. So I was really sitting in there and being patient, which was my game plan.”
Luckily Back avoided high drama at the start of the bell lap, with then race leader James Corbett taking a fall on the inside of the track and crashing into a Sky Television cameraman (right).
Unfortunately for Corbett, his race was done, while the cameraman was back at his lens to record the final lap unfold.
Was Back aware of what happened? “No, I was still hanging back at that point, but I saw the cameraman fall over and it was all on. I got clipped and it got a bit ugly at that point – I went out three lanes and just tried to get clear.”
In difficult conditions, Back’s winning time was 4:04.92, second placed Powell’s was 4:04.98 and third placed Sinclair’s was 4:05.10. The meet record in this race is 3:46.92, set by St John’s Hastings runner Richard Potts in 1989.
Of note, Back’s Whanganui Collegiate teammate Sophie Williams lowered the oldest meeting record of the meet in Saturday’s Junior Girls quarter-finals. Kaitaia College’s Myra Matkovich had run 11.88s in 1973, with Williams setting a new mark 46 years later of 11.86s.
Back was philosophical about coming second in the 800m final, a couple of hours before the 1500m decider. “I got chewed up in the last 30 metres.”
“I will be honest, I was trying to get the double. The last person to do that was Nick Willis.”
This was Back’s second NZSSA track title, winning the Junior 1500m two years ago in Hastings, and winning the NZSS Cross Country title in June this year.
He won this year’s cross country race with similar tactics, sitting second throughout most of the race behind Scots College’s Will Anthony and then taking the race-winning lead with about 150m to go. “That was a tough battle, that was a hilly course down in Timaru.”
What happens now for Back? “From now until next August I am just working and training in New Zealand before I head over the United States to Providence University.”
He is hoping to run all through summer. “I hope to do the Classic meets and then on to Nationals in Christchurch.”
Back is coached by Whanganui Collegiate’s Alec McNab, but has assistance from different people as well.
Below: Liam Back wins the Senior Boys 1500m race.
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