James Uhlenberg faced an unusual and flattering dilemma before the World Secondary Schools’ Cross Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Does he represent his school or his country?
Uhlenberg was selected for the New Zealand team, but chose to run for the six-man Sacred Heart College squad that were the Auckland and National Champions.
“It was a great honour to be selected for New Zealand, but I have run with Sacred Heart all year and I wanted to show some loyalty to my teammates. They could have always replaced me with another runner, but it wouldn’t have been the same,” Uhlenberg explains.
His decision to represent Sacred Heart was entirely justified. In the 5400m race, Sacred Heart finished second behind winners Turkey, and beat France in to third and another 18 other countries further back. This is the best result ever by a New Zealand college at the championships.
All six Sacred Heart runners finished inside the top 25 in a starting field of 125 runners. Uhlenberg came home in fifth, just 25 seconds behind the winner from Turkey. Jacob Holmes was five seconds back from James in seventh; Jono Ansley finished 13th, Sean Paget 17th, Liam Miller 20th and James Matthews 24th.
“I was real stoked with the result. At the start line it hit me. Wow!This is a World Championship,” Uhlenberg enthuses.
Jacob Holmes was delighted to have Uhlenberg by his side. He says the race started slower than he expected which allowed Sacred Heart to stay together and hunt as a pack.
“It was weird how slowly the race started. Usually the big races start quickly because everyone is nervous. We were able to stay tight and set a good pace,” Holmes says.
The course suited the Sacred Heart boys.
“It was real flat with this weird gravel part. We had to change our spikes a few times to handle that, but once we adjusted it was okay. In New Zealand you get a lot of hills which builds stamina, but we had been doing a lot of track work before departure because it was a long season. The flat course was good for us,” Holmes says.
Before Hungary the team stayed in London for a week and competed in a relay event at Hyde Park. Holmes enjoyed the shops and relative freedom of England, but hated the cold.
Uhlenberg, who won the National Secondary Schools’ 3000m title, is hungry for more races and travel.
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