Sam Tanner from Bethlehem College in Tauranga and Hannah O’Connor from Sacred Heart in New Plymouth were the big winners at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Champs in Christchurch.
Tanner took out the senior boys title after a sprint finish with Isaiah Priddey (Hamilton Boys), while pre-race favourite Nick Moulai (St Bede’s, Christchurch) came in third.
A big leading bunch stayed together for much of the senior 6km, with a number of athletes in contention well into the race and the lead changing often.
Priddey made a big move inside the last 1000 metres and the leading bunch broke up quickly. Tanner responded and went past Priddey with 200m to run and went on to take the win in 18:40, just a second ahead of the Hamilton athlete with Moulai coming through for third, another ten seconds back.
“It was pretty hard today. The boys put in a big effort and I was pretty stoked to get the win”, said Tanner. “My coach Craig Kirkwood and I discussed strategies before the race and I knew there were quite a few who could really push me but I wanted to give them a surprise.”
Chris Devaney, Theo Quax and Joseph Clark filled the next placings.
The senior girls 4km turned into a two-horse race with pre-race favourite Hannah O’Connor from Sacred Heart, New Plymouth being pushed all the way by Phoebe McKnight from Hutt Valley High School.
O’Connor, winner of the junior race in 2015 and 2016 was made to work very hard by McKnight who won the Year 9 contest in 2015. The Taranaki athlete had to call on all her reserves to drop the Hutt Valley runner over the final stages of the race, winning in 13:49 by three seconds with a gap of 29 seconds back to defending champion Tessa Webb from Fielding High School.
“Phoebe pushed me really hard today “, said O’Connor. “She is in good form but I knew I had a good sprint and I had to rely on that today.”
O’Connor, along with boys minor medallists Priddey and Moulai are off to the Bahamas for the Youth Commonwealth Games in July.
Tessa Hunt, Bridie Edwards Jayme Maxwell filled the next three senior girls placings.
The junior Boys race saw another good race with Andres Hernandez from St Bede’s, Christchurch running into a handy lead at the half way mark, but Liam Back from Wanganui Collegiate chased him down and made a decisive move with 500m to run, going on to win in 12:50 by four seconds.
Blair Hill from Westlake Boys in Auckland come in third, ahead of William Taylor, Mitch Snell and Jude Darby.
Charli Miller from St Peters, Cambridge had the biggest winning margin of the championships, winning the 3km junior girls race in 10:43, 18 seconds ahead of Esther Kozyniak from St Catherine’s in Wellington.
Maia Ramsden from Fiji finished third, while Brianna Lee from Napier Girls took the third place championship medal, ahead of Rebecca Baker and Tillie Hollyer.
The Year 9 boys 3km medals went to William Anthony (Scots College, Wellington) from Sam Idiens (Christs College, Christchurch) and Ben Ruscoe (Westlake Boys Auckland).
Arabella White (Diocesan, Auckland) won the girls Year 9 3km race from Zoe Smith (Aspiring College) and Maia Flint (Tauranga Girls).
Westlake Boys from Auckland showed total domination in the boys team races, winning all six gold medals on offer, the 3 person and 6 person contests across all three grades.
Waikato Diocesan (3 person) and St Cuthbert’s Auckland (6 person) were the top senior girls schools, while Baradene, Auckland won both teams titles in the junior girls. St Cuthbert’s and Auckland Diocesan won the Year 9 girls team titles.
The 44th New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships are this coming weekend at the Ascot Golf Course, QEII Park, Christchurch.
One of the biggest events on the secondary school calendar, with 874 runners from 128 schools throughout New Zealand entered as at the middle of this week.
The schools with the most entries are (20 or more runners entered): New Plymouth Boys’ High School (37 runners), Wellington College (34), Westlake Boys’ High School (33), Wanganui Collegiate (29), Auckland Grammar School (25), Sacred Heart College, Auckland (25), St Cuthbert’s College (23), Christchurch Boys’ High School (20) and MacLeans College (20).
A number of individual and team winners will be crowned. The races are Year Nine boys and girls 3,000m, U16 Junior girls 3,000m, U16 Junior boys 4,000m, Senior girls 4,000m, Senior boys 6,000m and the combined Junior and Senior para races of 2,000m each.
With some 220 runners the Senior Boys race will draw the largest field of the day, with several noted contenders expected to battle it out for 2017 title honours.
Nick Moulai (St Bede’s College) will be hoping to follow on from a successful track season with a good run in the annual New Zealand secondary schools cross country championship on his home turf.
Moulai was outstanding at the schools track championships last December with a slashing 3000m which resulted in a New Zealand under 17 record of 8:16.77. He followed this up with victories at the New Zealand championships in the youth men’s 800m and 1500m.
Moulai has come a long way from his 25th placing in Rotorua last year and has produced some good cross country results in Canterbury this winter. His toughest opposition could come from Isaiah Priddey (Hamilton Boys’ High School) and last year’s junior winner Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake Boys’ High School).
Moulai and Priddey are also training towards competing in the 1500m and 3000m at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas next month.
Chasing hard and keeping the 6km three-lap race honest will be a big group including Jacob Holmes, Joseph Clark, Flynn Palmer, Samuel Tanner, Seamus Kane, James Uhlenberg, Jonathan Ansley, Theo Quax, George Cory-Wright, Connor Melton, Luke Hill, Liam Chesney, Kalani Sheridan, Bradley Cullen, Janus Stanfenberg and Sam and Lochie Montgomerie.
There are 139 runners entered in the Senior Girls Race. Hannah O’Connor (Sacred Heart College. New Plymouth) should continue her form over the country making it three years in a row as a winner adding the senior girls’ to the last two years of taking out the junior title. Tessa Webb (Feilding High School) will be determined to defend her title and Amelia Persson (Christchurch Girls’ High School), second last year will be aiming to go one better.
Navajo Prentice (Villa Maria College), the Canterbury U/20 5000m champion with a time of 17:32.01 and Grace Ritchie (Waikato Diocesan School) Waikato Bay of Plenty U/20 5000m champion with 17:51.74 should have the stamina to pull through any boggy sections.
Liliana Braun second in the junior girls last year, Phoebe McKnight, Auckland schools winner Kendall Vaughan, Samantha Burke, Tessa Hunt, Bridie Edwards, Mya Graham and Akeira Worthington will also be in the hunt for a medal.
Finn Seeds (HIBS), second in year nine last year, will be hard to peg back in the junior boys 4km, the second largest field of the day with 153 registered starters. But giving him a good run for his money should be Sebastian Wharton and Blair Hill.
It should be a clear cut victory for Charli Miller (St Peter’s School) in the junior girls, as it was last year for her in the year nine race. Briana Irving and Natalya Carter should be up with the early pace.
Strong runs should come from David de Vaal, Zane Powell, Ben Roscoe and Joe Shiozawa in the year nine boys, while Arabella White should account for herself well in the year nine girls along with Joanna Poland.
Last year’s individual race winners were:
Start lists are at http://athnz.sportstg.com/Results/nzss2015/ - after each race these pages will turn into results.
NZSAA Facebook page – Like and foilow the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NZSecondarySchoolsAthleticsAssociation/
Athletics New Zealand is also promoting two Apps for the meet.
1. Track Meet Mobile App
iPhone App - https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/live-results/id325958282?mt=8
Android App - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigfishsoftware.liveresults
This App is free to download, which will allow you to search for a meet, and view the meet programme, which shows the meet location, a scheduled order of events, and the athletes and teams who are competing - available only at meets where meet hosts and officials support the publication of results to mobile with HY-TEK Track & Field Meet Manager .
2. Live Results App from Big Fish Software
iPhone App - https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/live-results/id325958282?mt=8
Android App - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigfishsoftware.liveresults
This App can be purchased for $1.50.
The National Secondary School Cross Country Championships are being staged in Christchurch next weekend at the demanding Ascot Golf Course at QE2 Park.
In the senior boys racing, Isaiah Priddey from Hamilton Boys’ High School has been the pace setter for some time but after the Super 8 cross country in Tauranga last week he has a serious new rival.
Chris Devaney from New Plymouth Boys’ High School won the individual race and captained his team to victory in the six-man event.
Devaney reflects on the Super 8 race.
“The conditions were pretty good, there had been quite a bit of rain in the days prior, but luckily race day conditions were perfect with little wind and no rain. The course itself was really good with a massive hill about halfway through the 2k lap. The hill gradually reduced the contenders. Heading into the final lap Isaiah had about 20 to 30 metres on me, but he pulled out and I kept racing hard to the finish.”
New Plymouth claimed the overall Super 8 title for the seventh time. The Year 9 team won their race for the first time since 2004. The Under-16’s prevailed in a tight finish and Devaney’s time of 20 min 26sec over 6km proved to be the decisive margin by 27 seconds.
Devaney has boosted his training to achieve better results.
“Technique wise I haven’t really changed much. Last year was the first year I trained all year round so that had me in better shape rolling into the cross country season this year. I have also worked closely with my coach to ensure my training program is on point,” he says.
Devaney has been running since Year 9.
“I was running casually and going alright. Initially I enjoyed the sport for the social interactions that came from it. My big break came when a guy pulled out of a Taranaki team to run in Auckland so I took his place. I came up against some quick guys and did alright so I started training more and my results kept on improving.” Devaney reflects.
Devaney credits his parents and coaches for his continued success. He aspires to join fellow New Plymouth old boy Angus White on a college scholarship in the US next year.
Commonwealth Youth Games bound Connor Bell is another immensely talented young thrower coming through the ranks here in New Zealand. Steve Landells chatted to the gifted 15-year-old to found out more about his rapid ascent.
When Connor Bell first discovered discus as a 13-year-old and began training at North Harbour Bays club his mum, Jenette, describes the uber-talented teenager as finally finding “his herd” and it is easy to see why.
Always the biggest kid in class the youngster from a lifestyle block in the small town of Kaukapakapa just north of Auckland, Connor tried a range of sports from football to rugby and cricket but struggled to find his niche.
He also tried his hand at motocross but a couple of concussions brought an abrupt end to his time competing in the two-wheeled motorsport.
“I gave up sport for a year, played video games and became overweight,” he explains of his time as a year seven student at Northcross Intermediate School. “I remember some kids gave me a tough time for a few months.”
Yet salvation was to come in the form of athletics. Back as a youngster at Waitoki School he had always enjoyed “throwing things” and he enjoyed some success in shot put and discus.
So, in year eight he gave the discus another crack. He won his first competition at school and followed this up with victory in the North Harbour competition. Under the encouragement of his father, Stephen, himself a former 13m schoolboy shot putter and sub-12 second 100m sprinter, he joined the Bays Cougars and trained initially with Sasha Pilkington.
“I was big, I had the right build for a discus thrower and a lot of people saw my potential,” explains Connor, who today stands at an imposing 1.91m (6ft 3ins). “A big motivation for me was the support I received from family and friends who were really excited to see me throw discus.”
After several months under the coaching of Pilkington – whom he praises for teaching him the basic throwing skills - he moved on to be coached by Auckland-based Frenchman Didier Poppe, where he made startling progress advancing from a 35m to a 65m in less than two years.
“Didier saw the potential in me and really wanted me to achieve my goal of becoming a 65m plus thrower,” explains Connor. “He taught me about the mindset and discipline needed for throwing and I improved an awful lot in a short period of time because of the technical work I did with him.”
With a new-found passion for the sport he pored over hours and hours of frame by frame video footage of German discus legends Lars Riedel and Robert Harting and Estonia’s 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter of Estonia.
In his first full year in the sport he was third at the 2015 Auckland Championships - and despite missing out on the North Island Secondary School Championships due to a broken toe - in December he claimed gold at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships with a 48.75m effort. He had truly arrived.
Progress continued under Poppe’s guidance and in July of 2016 he hurled the 1.25kg implement beyond 60m for the first time which he describes as “a big milestone.”
In December, he secured back-to-back New Zealand Secondary Schools title in style with a monster 65.00m effort (1.25kg) to wipe almost seven metres from Jacko Gill’s championship record - an achievement Connor, quite rightly, reflects on with immense pride.
After deciding to part ways from Poppe at the beginning of this year the search was on to find a new coach. On the recommendation of his strength and conditioning coach Mike Schofield he was asked to carry out a training session with “the big dogs” Valerie Adams and Jacko Gill. He enjoyed the experience and Connor, in particular, enjoyed a great rapport with the two-time Olympic and seven-time world shot put champion.
“After talking to Valerie I realised we shared similar values,” he says. “I think she saw the potential in me - like a mini version of herself - and she was really easy to talk to.”
After Mike invited him for a training session at AUT Millennium he found Valerie waiting for him. She gave him some technical advice and in March the pair formalised a coach-athlete relationship, which was a little surreal for the student, who has recently transferred from Long Bay College to Westlake Boys High.
“At first you are in the presence of a living legend”, says Connor of first being guided by Valerie, who is currently pregnant and taking a competitive break from the sport.
“But as I’ve got to know her more on a personal level we get on really well. We talk about subjects not related to discus and we have good banter. As a shot putter she maybe doesn’t have the same technical background as Didier but because she can relate to me through her values, aspirations and vision - it has worked really well and she understands me more as she is an athlete as well”.
“Her qualities are her communication and her calm nurturing style. She is also very passionate and she really motivates me to discover my potential.”
After winning both the New Zealand Under-18 and Under-20 title with throws of 60.47m (with the 1.5kg implement) and a throw of 54.38m (with the 1.75kg) – a fantastic achievement for a 15-year-old - he then went on the Australian Championships in Sydney and banked under-18 gold with a new PB and world under-18 leading throw of 63.93m.
Despite only being under the coaching influence of Valerie for a relatively short period, Connor is already seeing the benefits of the combination. Working on a ten-week training plan in the countdown to July’s Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas – which typically combines three throws sessions with two strength and conditioning sessions – the 102kg thrower is excited at the progress made.
“I think I’ve improved in terms of my technique and my consistency,” he admits. “I’m now throwing a little further in training – at around 60-65m – and I’m doing so consistently. Valerie has also improved my confidence, my determination and my understanding. I am really enjoying it.”
With the immediate goal on the horizon the Commonwealth Youth Games, Connor is already focused on his first major international competition and is looking forward to his appearance at the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium – the same venue which has staged the past three editions of the IAAF World Relays.
“I expect to have fun and throw as well as I can,” he explains. “I hope to come out with a gold medal, but I don’t think I’ll be disappointed whatever I do as this is my first international competition.”
Describing his technique as his strong point, but with lots of scope to develop his strength and technique more he is excited by his potential room for improvement with some big ambitions for the future.
Next year is looking at winning gold and smashing the Games record (of 64.14m) at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires – should New Zealand opt to send a team.
“I would like to finish my time with the 1.5kg (discus) as a 70m thrower, which would put me second all-time, he says. Then I have high hopes of achieving the World U20 title (in future).”
Olympic Games and World Championships are the long-term goals and with Valerie Adams in his camp he will have all the expertise and knowledge required to scale such heights. Yet beyond gold medals and world records, discus means something far simpler for the Bays athlete, who celebrates his 16th birthday later this month.
“I just love to throw,” he says. “It is fun.”
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