The 2017 New Zealand Combined Events Athletics Championships were held at a blustery Caledonian Ground in Dunedin over this past weekend, featuring a core group of Otago and Southland athletes as well as a contingent from around the country.
In the U18 events, Kayla Goodwin (Sacred Heart Girls’ College, Hamilton) won the first six of the seven heptathlon events to build up a large lead and ran a solid final event the 800m to win with 4752 points well clear of Aucklanders Hayley Marx (Pukekohe High School) and Cara Lonergan (Rangitoto College).
Kayla continued her strong form from last December’s NZSS Athletics Championships when she won the Junior Girls long Jump, the 80m hurdles and the triple jump events and was second in the 300m hurdles.
Cameron Miller (Otago Boys’ High School) provided Otago with a home winner in the U18 decathlon, scoring 5691 points, ahead of Matthew Aucamp (Elim Christian College) and Jared Neighbours (Papanui High School)
Going into the final event in the U18 Cameron was in third 55 points behind leader Jared and 46 behind Matthew. But a 4:30.59 1500m saw Cameron safely through for the title.
The U20 championship titles went to Otago's Felix McDonald (decathlon) on 6062 points and Auckland’s Alex Hyland (heptathlon) 4535 points. Last year’s NZSS senior girls high jump champion out of Onehunga College, Alex won the 100m hurdles, high jump, 200m, long jump and 800m events to finish ahead of Lexi Maples (Wanganui) and Andrea McDowell (Southland).
Sarah Langsbury (St Hilda’s Collegiate) won the non-championship U16 heptathlon with 3560 and
Shaun Wood (Central Southland College) the non-championship U16 octathlon with 3546.
Full results at: http://athnz.sportstg.com/Results/nzce2015/
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It's been an unusually cold summer in Wellington, but that hasn't stopped Hutt Valley High School sprinter Nick Smith from pursuing hot times on the track.
The National Secondary Schools 100m and 200m senior champion has his sights set on a scholarship in the USA, but he needs to keep his pedal on the metal.
"The weather has been pretty frustrating. It has prevented me from running as quickly as I would like, but I have been competing against open aged athletes, which has pushed me because you always have somebody to chase," Smith says.
Smith has managed podium finishes at the Cook, Capital and Porritt Classics which are open events. Since December he has reduced his personal best times over both distances. His PB in the 100m is 10.71s while in the 200m his quickest time is 21.80s. The time Smith is desperate to beat is the National Under-18 100m record of 10.55s shared by Kodi Harman and Joshua Billington.
"In April I am going to California to compete at the Arcadia Invitational where there will be many scouts. If I can run a time below 10.6s I will be competitive and increase my chances of being recognised," Smith explains.
The Arcadia Invitational has produced 152 US Olympians and the 100m record at the age group meet is a lighting 10.17s held by American Noah Lyles.
Prior to that Smith will compete in a series of interclub and zone meeting in both age group and open categories. The first indication of how competitive he could be in the US will happen in late March when he appears at the Australian Championships where recent sensation Jack Hale is likely to make an appearance.
"It's the first time high school athletes have competed in the Australian Open's. It will be tough, but if I can make a final and keep reducing my times I will be happy. It's going to be a massive year," Smith enthuses.
P.S. Don Jowett, also an old boy of Hutt Valley High School, was admitted to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame during the annual Halberg Awards evening last Thursday. Jowett is unique in the annals of New Zealand athletics in that he is the only New Zealand sprinter to win a gold medal at a major international meeting. At the 1954 Vancouver British Empire and Commonwealth Games he won gold in the 220 yards and silver in the 440 yards. At the 1950 Auckland Empire Games he won bronze in the 220 yards. He won three New Zealand 220 yards titles and four 440 yards titles. He set a New Zealand 100 yards record in 1949. He was an IAAF track referee and Otago representative rugby player. It seems spiriting runs deep at Hutt Valley High School.
The Solo family is one of the most accomplished families in Wellington secondary school sport.
Bernadine and Priscilla Solo attend St Catherine’s College where Priscilla is the sports captain. Both girls have won National titles in athletics and represented Wellington in age- group rugby.
Brother Roderick Solo attends Scots College and is quickly forging a big reputation in both codes as well.
At last year’s National Secondary Schools Athletics Championships in Auckland, Roderick won the junior hurdles and long jump titles and finished third as the youngest competitor in the triple jump. Roderick is humble about his National title triumphs.
“It was good winning, but I could only do it with the support of my family, friends and coach. It was a tough race and I was lucky Dominic Overend [Auckland Grammar School] tripped over the last hurdle. I think I was just ahead of him heading into the last jump, but it was close,” he recalls.
Roderick would beat Overend in the long jump, leaping 6.54m as opposed to the former’s 6.52m.
In the triple jump Roderick narrowly failed to achieve a gold medal.
“The lead changed lots and I was in the lead after my second to last jump. Unfortunately the two older boys out jumped me in the last round,” Roderick reflects.
Callum Stewart from St. Andrew College was the eventual victor.
Roderick is a member of the Wellington Harriers club and has carried on his top form in 2017 ahead of the major regional meetings in March and April.
The twice North Island Secondary Schools triple jump champion won the long jump and hurdles titles at the Interprovincial championships in January and can now cover the 100m in a brisk 11.2 seconds.
That searing pace will excite the Scots College First XV who were a major disappointment last year failing to reach the semi-finals of Premier One after twice contesting the National Top Four decider. Roderick made a few appearances in 2016 and typically plays on the wing.
“I think we will have a strong team this year. We basically have everybody back. Some of the players to watch for are Malo Manuao, Tai Neli, Jack Gray and Jack Mexted,” Roderick enthuses.
Roderick wasn’t so keen on the food in Malaysia when he toured the country with a Scots development sevens team last winter.
“All we got was rice and noodles so one day we got takeaways and were the only team eating KFC,” Roderick laughs.
In unfamiliar heat Scots battled to third place. Heading to Samoa to watch the All Blacks play their historic first test in Apia in 2015 presented no such hassles. The Solo family won a competition to attend the game as New Zealand’s craziest rugby supporters.
“That was pretty crazy. We love our sport,” Roderick concludes.
She’s already had a stellar season, but Kristin School Year 13 pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart is hoping for further success over the next couple of months.
Last month in Hastings Olivia jumped a personal best of 4.40m, which was just .05 metres away from Rio bronze medallist and training partner Eliza McCartney's New Zealand U18 record.
Next up for Olivia is the Vertical Pursuit event next Wednesday in Auckland, alongside Eliza and other vaulters such as Canadian Alysha Newman and US athlete Morgann Leleux. Four days later Olivia and the others contest the Auckland Track Challenge on the North Shore near Olivia’s home.
What’s it like soaring so high?
“The feeling off the top of the pole is seriously amazing, if you do it properly, it just feels like you’re flying for that split second, “ Olivia told College Sport Media. “It’s what it’s all about when you get over that bar.”
Olivia has brought a gymnastics background to her sport.
“The foundations of gym teach us so much for pole vaulting, the two are very similar, and having the awareness of where you are is really helpful.”
“Lots of pole vaulters are former gymnasts and I first got into it through a gymnast friend.”
How much of pole vaulting is mental?
“Probably 80-90 percent of it is mental, and then there are other aspects of technique, strength and speed that come into it. Being in the zone, knowing what you have got to do and just focusing on what’s in front of you is what makes you have a good competition.”
Following the competitions later this month, Olivia turns her attention to meets in New Zealand and Australia.
“In March we have got the Auckland Championships and then the New Zealand Nationals in Hamilton and then the Australian Nationals at the end of March,” so it’s pretty full on.
“In April and May we’ll be here training and then going into June and July we’re going to Europe, for a training camp in Germany and then a few competitions to get myself out there a bit more.”
All the while she’ll still be doing her Level 3 NCEA schoolwork of course.
Her training regime is busy too.
“We do actual pole vaulting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and also leg weights after pole vaulting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we do running and sprint training and upper body weights and then Fridays is gymnastics skills.”
The poles themselves vary in weight and length.
“The whole group has a range of poles, which range in length from 12 to 17 feet. We pick whichever one suits our take-off. So the bigger the take-off you have the bigger poles you use.”
“Right now I am on 14 feet or 14.6’ feet poles so hopefully I keep progressing up those lengths.”
Elite pole vaulters can own and travel with up to 10 poles, but in Olivia’s case its coach Jeremy McColl who organises the poles for the group to use. Jeremy is also Eliza McCartney’s coach and the poles that Olivia are currently on are Eliza’s former ones.
Long-term, Olivia said that she’s working towards qualifying for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. “I have already got the B standard, which is 4.40m, so going for that A standard of 4.58m is a goal.
“Then Tokyo 2020 is the bigger goal.”
Eliza won bronze at the Olympics with a jump of 4.80m and the qualifying height was 4.55m.
Good luck Olivia McTaggart.
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