Above: Senior Girls winner Kirstie Rae (733) leads her school teammates and the field in her race last Saturday / Image: Michael Dawson / michaeldawson.nz
Runner-up last year, Wellington East Girls’ College’s Kirstie Rae put the hammer down over the second half of the race to comfortably win this year’s New Zealand Secondary Schools Senior Girls Cross Country race in Timaru this past weekend.
Kirstie finished the two-lap, 4km course in 14.35 min, well ahead of second placed finisher Charli Miller from St Peter’s School, Cambridge in 15.14 min and with Olivia Cummings from Otumoetai College coming home third in 15.21 min.
Kirstie was quietly confident of doing well, but acknowledged the quality of the field and trust in her disrupted build-up in managing a slight hip injury as reasons to stay calm and focussed on the start line.
“Leading into the race I was quite nervous, because it was the last race for my school and I have done the NZSS race for four out of the five years, but I was just looking at giving it everything for my school once last time in cross country,” said Kirstie.
She won her race in a field of 113 starters in the Senior Girls field (from a total of 808 representing 136 schools in all races), in fine, cool conditions on a mostly firm, fast course.
“The start was about 400m of flat grass and then went into some rolling hills and there were a couple of hurdles in there as well. So for the first lap I just wanted to stay controlled and relaxed.
“Charli Miller went out hard and she was a bit ahead of me and then with a lap to go I started accelerating and getting a bit of a gap on her and ended up extending my lead to the end.”
Kirstie gave WEGC the edge to win both the three and six person teams. Baradene College was second and St Peter’s School third in the three team and Diocesan School second and St Cuthbert’s third in the six person team.
Kirstie’s WEGC teammates in the Senior Girls race were Maali Kyle Ford (12th), Saskia Cosgrove Drayton (15th), Amy Walker (20th), Caitlyn Bassett (34th), Grace Gordon (79th) and Katie McGivern (103rd).
WEGC’s Maia Wilkinson finished second in the Junior Girls race, behind winner Hannah Prosser from Timaru Girls’ High School, with school teammate Mackenzie Morgan (10th), Anna Bassett (26th) giving them a second placed finish in the three-person team.
The school also finished third in the three-person team in the year 9 race, with Eliza Squire (4th), Phoebe Squire (16th) and Amelia Newman (66th) bringing them home.
“It was really awesome being there with my school team and watching the year 9s in their first NZSS race and being able give them tips and encouragement as well, “ said Kirstie.
What is coming up for Kirstie? “In the first week of the school holidays we have got the North Island Cross Country Championships in Taupo, and the New Zealand Cross Country Championships in early August in Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt. That is the same location as where the College Sport Wellington Championships were held recently.”
Then there is the Australian Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships to look forward to in Wollongong on 24 August.
“I will be racing in the U20 race, which a 6km, and I have heard it was quite a flat course so it should be a very fast race.”
Kirstie got her first taste of competing in a 6km cross country against the best athletes in the world earlier this year at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Denmark – finishing 17th.
“It was an experience like no other, really amazing. On the start line we were lined up next to Kenya.
“It was three 2km loops and the course was really interesting with a lot of spectator points and a beer tent that we ran under with people drinking beer. We ran through a water pit, a mud pit and there was soft sand that made it tough. A part of the course was run on the grass roof of the Moesgaard Museum and we ran up and down that.”
Unsurprisingly, the Africans went straight to the front, but the pace was only moderate early on giving Kirstie time to settle. “I was in the chasing pack, with an Australian and a few Japanese. I think the Africans ended up filling the top 13 places, then it was two Japanese, and Australian and then myself.”
As well as the senior team, Kirstie was part of a junior New Zealand Women’s team that included Hutt Valley High School’s Phoebe McKnight (34th), former Wellington East NZSS track champion Tessa Hunt (88th), St Cuthbert's College’s Isabella Richardson (93rd) and Te Kuiti High School’s Samantha Corbett (99th).
Prior to heading to Denmark, Kirstie ended the recent track and field season in top form, winning the Senior Girls 3000m in a new record time of 9.38.69 and breaking the 12-year record by 15 seconds at the Wellington Regional Championships.
“I only just started doing the 3000m at the beginning of last season. It is all relatively new to me but I do like that distance. I also like the 1500m too.”
This year’s NZSS Track and Field Championships are at Newtown Park in Wellington, just up the road from school.
“It will be exciting having that on my home track and it will be good having all my family and friends watching. It is always an interesting meet as it is still early in the athletics season, but it will be by last race for Wellington East so hopefully we can pull out something good.”
Following that, she is looking at earning a running scholarship to a USA university next year.
Kirstie’s coach is Alistair Leslie, while Wellington Sports Medicine also provide an invaluable assistance to her running career.
Her parents are also really supportive, and Kirstie thanked her mum for cooking her pre-race pasta on Friday night this past weekend.
2019 NZSS Cross Country full individual results: https://nzssaa.org.nz/static/nz-xc-2019/results/results.pdf
“I can’t do everything, but I try to,” enthuses Kapiti College’s Louis Northcott on his busy sporting life.
Louis is a leading player and fullback for the Kapiti College First XV currently playing in the Wellington Premiership, and a top performer in both track and field in the athletics arena. He also plays cricket for his school’s First XI in the summer when he is not running, throwing and jumping his way to medals.
Part of a rugby playing family, Louis’ younger brother (year 12) Ted plays prop and his older brother Stanley has left school now and plays lock for the Paremata-Plimmerton club and made his Premier club rugby debut this past weekend.
This is both Louis’ and Ted’s second year in the Kapiti College First XV.
After going through the grading rounds – and beating Upper Hutt College 33-31 in a thriller in the last qualifying match, Kapiti College have so far had defeats to St Pat’s Town (18-62), Aotea College (7-43) and Scots College (5-41).
But the recent loss to Scots who are widely considered amongst the title favourites this year was encouraging. “We were happy with the way we played against Scots because was held them to 5-12 at halftime, the result just got away on us a bit at the end.”
Kapiti now have two consecutive home games coming up, against Wellington College and Rongotai College.
The captain is fellow year 13 student centre Taine Hata. “It is Taine’s third year in the First XV, and he always does a good job and motivates the boys and convinces us that we deserve to be in the Premiership.”
This was borne out in that last grading win against Upper Hutt College. “We were leading and then in the last 10 minutes or so we were pinned inside our 22 and it was a huge defensive effort and it really just showed us how much we wanted to be in that top grade this year.”
Kapiti College is fielding a young team, particularly in the forwards where one of the props is year 10 and half the rest of the pack are year 11s.
Playing fullback, Louis also wears the same jersey of another former Kapiti College First XV player, Christian Cullen.
Known as the Paekakariki Express, Cullen scored 46 tries in 58 Tests for the All Blacks between 1996-2002 and was College Sport Wellington Rugby Player of the Year in 1993.
“Christian Cullen grew up in Paekakariki, where I am also from, so he has always been someone to look up to. I have met him a couple of times as well.”
Louis had been doing athletics since he was 10, starting through his dad. “I have always loved it and it probably becoming my more preferred sport, but I love rugby and athletics equally.
Louis is a combined events athlete, having competed in two decathlons so far.
In February, he finished third overall (winning three events) in the New Zealand U20 Decathlon Championships.
Coming from a running and discus background, Louis says he has had to learn all the other disciplines such as pole vault and javelin. “That’s all been a great experience learning to do all that and getting points in those events too.”
In early April in Tauranga, Louis won the North Island Secondary School Senior Boys 400m title, while the Wellington team he was part of won the 4x400m relay.
“The 400m is the event that I train for the hardest. A lot of people say that 400m training is what most decathletes should do so it just happens to work in well.
“I was really stoked with winning that. That was one of my proudest achievements so far, all the training that went into it and I had never won an individual North Island title before.”
Louis was also second in the Senior Boys Long Jump and Pole Vault and third in the Senior Boys Discus, and also part of Wellington’s 4x100m relay team that won silver.
The 4x100m team also included Kapiti College’s Jordan Stewart, who won the Senior Boys 100m as a year 12.
For now, louis’ sole focus is rugby. “Then after that, I will get into athletics training and look forward to the New Zealand Secondary Schools meet, which is being held in Wellington in early December.”
This will be his first NZSS Track and Field Championships appearance as well.
He will also look to keep playing cricket for for the Premier 2 cricket Kapiti College First XI. Unsurprisingly he is all-rounder.
This year’s College Sport Wellington Regional Cross Country Boys U19 winner Will Anthony has plenty left in this tank.
The year 11 Scots College runner in his first season as a senior shot to the front of last Wednesday’s 6km race and won by 36 seconds to the second placed finisher, Finn Seeds of Hutt International Boys’ School and with Thomas Strawbridge of St Pat’s Silverstream just behind in third.
“I was hoping to win, but I didn’t think it would be by that much,” said Will. “I was pretty surprised with the margin of victory.”
The race at Harcourt Park, Upper Hutt was a three-lap 2km undulating course.
“A few people sat on my shoulder for the first lap and then at the start of the second lap I started pulling a lead and then by the end of the second lap I was quite a way clear.”
There were 40 runners in the Senior Boys race, with Jack Paine (fifth) and Callum Hancock (seventh) two other Scots College runners that finished in the top 10. Scots won the three-person teams race, with Wellington College second and also taking the six-person teams honours.
Despite moving up from the Intermediate ranks for the first time, Will was familiar with some of his rivals. “I raced against Thomas Strawbridge a few times earlier this year and against him at the University Relays [harriers event, for the Olympic club] a few weeks back and I have run against Finn Seeds for a number of years as he is just one school year older.”
Will and Finn also train together, both under the guidance of coach Alastair Leslie.
One of Will’s next major goals is attending the NZSS Cross Country Championships in Timaru on 15-16 June.
“I will be aiming for top five, and then hopefully to be picked for the Australian Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in August.”
Will finished fifth in the Junior Boys race last year in Taupo.
He also has a promising career on the track in the summer months, with his main event being 3000m and also running 1500m. His PBs for both are 4.06 minutes and 8.46 minutes respectively.
He did both events at the recent Wellington Regionals and North Island Secondary School Championships events in the Intermediate grade. “Unfortunately I was a bit sick, I managed to win the 3000m and 1500m at Regionals and then at the North Islands I came third in the 3000m and second in the 1500m.
He also went to the New Zealand Track and Field Nationals in Christchurch, coming second in the 1500m and mid-field in the 3000m, competing in the U18 grade.
He is looking forward to the chance of competing at home at Newtown Park at this December’s NZSS Track and Field Championships.
Will started running when he was eight and his family are supportive. “My granddad also used to do some longer races and marathons so I got some of it from him.”
What about other sports? “I used to play rugby but stopped two years ago to focus on my running. I used to play other sports too like water polo.”
Has Will managed to catch up with new student and sprinter Eddie Osei Nketia?
“I have met him at school but I don’t train a lot with school so I haven’t trained with him or anything.”
Will trains six times a week, consisting of three long runs and three interval sessions and Sunday mornings the gym with his coach.
A favourite place for Will to running is the Port Hills in Christchurch, when he goes there to see his family.
Click here for the Results – 2019 CSW Secondary School Cross Country Champs
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