For many senior athletes, this will the final time they wear their school colours with pride, for some juniors it’s just the start, at the New Zealand secondary schools track and field and road running championships in Hastings this Friday to Sunday.
Over 1,300 athletes from 210 schools throughout New Zealand and also from the Cook Islands, Niue and Fiji will take part.
The championships will be staged at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park, Percival Road, Tomoana starting at 1:00pm Friday 1 December and continuing into the weekend, finishing at 5:00pm on Sunday 3 December.
As always, much attention will focus on the sprint events, with strong fields in both the boys and girls sprints.
Hutt Valley High School’s Nick Smith faces some tough opposition in the defence of his senior boys sprint double. Smith was second to Jordan Bolland in the 100m in 2015 and came back last year at Waitakere to take the double. He will face tough competition from James Guthrie-Croft, TJ Paea, Mogammad Smith, Sam Diggelmann, Nic Forster and Yasheek Rosario.
Lucy Sheat will also be defending her titles in the senior girls sprints. Sheat also won the 200m in 2015. Georgia Hulls runner up in the 100m and 200m for the last two years has entered the 100m and the 400m, where, ahead of Grace Godfrey, Izzy Neal and Samantha Hardie.
Maddison Wesche has an outstanding record at the championships in the shot put having won the junior title in 2013 and 2014 and in her final year will be going for her third straight title in the senior girls. Last year she set a schools record of 16.75m with the 3kg shot.
The highlight on Sunday will be the hotly contested senior boys 1500m. Last year Theo Quax was narrowly beaten by Matthew Manning for the title. This time there are five runners who are also in with a chance. Sam Tanner, Isaiah Priddey, Nick Moulai, George Cory-Wright and Jacob Holmes. In a recent time trial which saw nearly all of them achieve a personal best time, it was Tanner who prevailed in 3:50.05.
On current form Tanner may well also have the edge in the 3000m. Last year the 3000m was superb with Nick Moulai setting a New Zealand under 17 record of 8:16.77 and dragging a number through to personal bests. The line-up for the 3000m looks equally strong with Moulai, Tanner, Priddey, Holmes, Joseph Clark, Bradley Christison, Connor Melton, Kalani Sheridan and Murdoch McIntyre.
The senior boys 800m will be close between Liam Turner, Harrison Porritt, Flynn Palmer, Max Spencer, Jono Ansley and Sam Gouverneur. Sam Montgomerie, William Sinclair and McIntyre should feature in the medals in the 2000m steeplechase.
Oliver Miller will be out to make it three years in a row in the 300m hurdles. He will be also defending his senior boys 400m title. Olly Parkinson and Matteus Pio will give Miller plenty of competition in the 300m hurdles while Parkinson should show out in the 110m hurdles from Forster. In the 400m competition will come from Michael Graham, Gouverneur and Zinan Bennett.
Matthew Aucamp second in last season’s national youth decathlon championship will be contesting the high jump, pole vault, 110m hurdles and javelin throw while Cameron Miller the youth decathlon champion is down to contest the discus throw as well as the high and long jumps.
Connor Bell is poised to add the senior boys discus throw record to the junior record of 65.00m he set last year with the 1.25kg discus. Chris Mene holds the senior record of 61.76m with the 1.5kg discus set in 1990. Bell set a New Zealand 1.5kg under 17 and 18 record of 63.93m in Australia in March and this season has thrown 61.94m.
Hannah O’Connor winner of three junior events last year, the 1500m, 3000m in a record 9:32.89 and 4km road race will be going for the senior 1500m, 3000m double. In the 1500m O’Connor will face Tessa Hunt and Harriet Bush.
In the 3000m competition will come from Tessa Webb, Liliana Braun and Samantha Burke. Webb and Braun are expected to also feature in the 2000m steeplechase. Bush is also in action in the 800m alongside defending champion Lily Trotter, Georgia Clode, Isobel Hegan, Mya Graham and Hunt.
Olivia McTaggart who equalled Eliza McCartney’s senior girls pole vault record of 4.10m last year, was over the bar this week at 4.20m and will be looking to having the record outright. Hannah Adye who has cleared 3.46m this season will give the junior girls record of 3.10m a nudge.
Alex Brown and Laura Kehely on current form should win the 3000m race walking open titles.
Hayley Marx will contest the 300m hurdles, javelin throw, long jump, high jump and 100m hurdles while Kayla Goodwin is down for the javelin throw, triple jump, long jump and 100m hurdles.
In the hurdles Goodwin with a time of 14.37 this season, will be favoured over Tegan Duffy.
Caitlin Bonne will be defending her javelin throw title, Mellata Tatola the hammer title and Tatiana Kaumoana the discus title.
Anthony Nobilo heads out into the field and will tackle the senior boys shot put, discus and hammer throws.
Anthony Barmes, on the improve at each outing should medal in the hammer. Commonwealth youth games silver medallist in July Nick Palmer is likely to be way ahead of any other competitor in the shot put having improved his personal best to 20.08m two weeks ago.
In the jumps, Forster has an edge in the long ahead of Miller, Andrew Allan and Reuben Brown. Allan, third last year, should dominate the triple with Adam Norman, Keiran Pere and Cameron Collins not too far behind.
Tom Moloney junior champion last year is in line to step up and take the senior high jump title over Norman.
Duffy, Goodwin and Lauren Henry should battle out the senior girls long, and Lisa Putt, Goodwin, Jamie Speer, Lydia Bamford and Emma McColl are the ones to watch in the triple. Josephine Reeves on her current form will be favoured in the senior girls high jump.
Rio Para-Athlete William Stedman will compete in the 100m, 200m, 400m, shot put and long jump.
The NZSSA Track and Field Championships were first contested in 1972.
There are five records dating from the 1970s, including two from the second year, these being:
A number of records were set at the 44th NZSSA Championships in Auckland last year, these being:
Junior Girls 3000m: Hannah O’Connor, Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth, 9:32.89
Junior Girls 300m Hurdles: Olivia Burnham, Villa Maria College, 44.48
Junior Girls 2000m Steeplechase: Charli Miller, St Peter’s School, Cambridge, 6:57.00
Junior Girls 4x100m Relay: Wanganui Collegiate, 49.51
Junior Girls 4 x 400m Relay: Wanganui Collegiate, 4.04.65
Junior Girls Pole Vault: Jess Sheldon, Rangitoto College, 3.10m
Junior Boys 2000m Steeplechase: Murdoch McIntyre, Westlake Boys’ High School , 6:17.86
Junior Boys 300m Hurdles: Mattheus Pio, Hamilton Boys’ High School, 39.28
Junior Boys Pole Vault: Claro Francisco, Wanganui Collegiate, 2.70m
Junior Boys Discus: Connor Bell, Long Bay College, 65.00m
Senior Girls Pole Vault: Olivia McTaggart, Kristin School, 4.10m (equalled previous record)
Senior Girls Shot Put: Madison Wesche, Lynfield College, 16.75m
Para Records broken in 2016
Junior Boys 100m T20: Aldrey Soria, Fairfield College, 14.45
Junior Boys 200m T20: Josh Taylor, Wairarapa College, 29.58
Junior Boys 400m T35: Guy Harrison, Napier Boys’ High School, 76.10
Junior Boys Long Jump T20: Aldrey Soia, Fairfield College, 4.14m
Junior Boys Shot Put F20: Dallas Hokai, Fairfield College, 8.96m
Senior Boys Long Jump T36: William Steadman, Middleton Grange, 4.71m
Senior Boys Shot Put F20: Jack Lewer, Feilding High School, 11.90m
Senior Boys Discus F45: Ben Ellis, St Pat’s Town, 10.38m
Senior Boys Javelin F46/47: David O’Connor, Auckland Grammar 29.58m
Senior Girls 100m T44: Anna Steven, Westlake Girls’ High School, 17.80m
Senior Girls 200m T44: Anna Steven, Westlake Girls’ High School,
Senior Girls High Jump T44: Anna Steven, Westlake Girls’ High School, 1.19m
Senior Girls Long Jump T44: Anna Steven, Westlake Girls’ High School, 3.36m
Senior Girls Discus F20: Taiyana Taylor, Allenvale High School, 13.33m
Notable record holders
A number of NZSSA record holders have gone on to represent New Zealand at major meets such as Commonwealth and Olympic Games, some of these that still stand being:
Georgia Hulls has been hitting headwinds lately.
The Havelock North High School senior girls sprinter has had three warm-up meets heading into next weekend’s NZSSAA Track and Field and Road Running Championships, based just up the road at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park. None have been favourable conditions.
“I have competed three times recently and every time it’s been a headwind,” she told College Sport Media this week. “But you can’t help it and it could be the same on the day at nationals, it is important to get out and have a run.”
Prior to that, her last serious meeting was at the Oceania Area Championships in Fiji in June.
Georgia is set to compete in her fifth and final NZSSAA Championships next weekend. She’s also competed all around New Zealand and overseas, but this will be the biggest meet on her home track, which has recently been revamped.
“I competed there in the Colgate Games in 2011, but this will be my first national meet at home in the Hawke’s Bay since then. I like competing at home, it is different, it is nice to have the local support and I have never quite appreciated how much people are interested and it’s really good to see.”
She is undecided about which events she will race in.
“I have entered the 100m, 200m and 400m and the relays and I will decide beforehand what races to do, based on entries and how I am feeling. I will do two of the three individual races. It will either be 100m-200m-relays or 100m-400m-relays.”
She is also currently the fastest 400m female runner in the country, ranked one in all age groups.
In the back of her mind is qualification for the 2018 U20 World Championships in Finland in July next year, after competing at the previous U20 World Championships in Poland in 2016, although this is not her priority next weekend. “For this meet I just want to focus on running fast and enjoying my last national schools.”
Georgia said that the chance to represent your school on the national stage and to support your school teammates in action is what makes the NZSSAA special for all the top athletes.
Of the four previous NZSSAA championships she has competed in, she said 2014 was the most memorable when, as well as winning the Junior Girls individual 100m and 200m titles, she helped Havelock North High School to second in the 4 x 100m relay and to victory in the 4 x 400m relay. “It was really nice to win the relay and to see the other girls and to see how happy they were.”
Georgia said this year there are several other Havelock North High School athletes hoping to do well, including junior 1500m runner Clara Braun and Cameron Potts’ road race team.
Plus some wider Hawke’s Bay athletes to follow, such as Karamu High School’s Nick Palmer, a nationally ranked shot-putter coached by Tom Walsh’s coach Dale Stevenson. “Definitely watch out for Nick, I think he will be throwing far and he is looking to qualify for the World U20 Championships as well.”
Briana Stephenson of Napier Girls’ High School is another, being a long jumper, a high jumper and a sprinter.
Further afield, Georgia’s main rival should be Lucy Sheat from Marlborough Girls’ College.
Both are ultra-competitive and good friends off the track. Both went to the last U20 Junior World Championships in 2016 and both are in the Athletics New Zealand Elite Relay for Tokyo Squad and both also aiming for Finland. “We have been racing together for about five years and it is really good to have each other to push ourselves for fast times.”
Last year, Lucy edged Georgia into second in the finals of both the Senior Girls 100m and 200m, while Havelock North High School finished second to St Hilda’s Collegiate in the Senior Girls 4 x 100m relay final.
Georgia said that Leah Belfield of Te Awamutu College and Anna Hayward of Craighead Diocesan School, Timaru, are two other athletes with a clean pair of heels in her peer group.
In August Georgia, and no doubt all the other leading secondary school athletes, watched the World Athletics Championships on TV. She said she likes watching Dutch sprinting star Dafne Schippers and also follows Australian Ella Nelson. “She didn’t do too great at the recent World Championships but she came ninth at the Rio Olympic Games, and I have met her and she is lovely and it’s great to see Oceania athletes doing well.”
Following the NZSSAA Championships, Georgia will be looking to compete in the summer Classic series of meetings and then in March the New Zealand Nationals and either the Australian Junior or Senior Nationals. Then if she qualifies for the Junior Worlds she will head to England for several weeks to stay with family and train and compete there.
As well as counting times, she is also looking at doing some extramural accounting papers at Massey University for the first half of 2018.
As well as athletics, Georgia also plays hockey for her school as a striker, helping Havelock North High School win the tier three Jenny Hair Cup in Winter Tournament Week and beating Horowhenua College 3-1 in the final.
She had four NCEA Level 3 exams last week - accounting, biology, chemistry and English - and has her final exam on Monday - statistics.
The 45th NZSSAA Track, Field and 43rd Road Race Championships run from Friday 1 December–Sunday 3 December at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park and the Eastern Institute of Technology in nearby Taradale respectively.
“I hadn’t thrown a discus for six months. I had a practice throw the day before and it felt good. On Sunday I was a National Champion and record holder.” Ben Ellis recalls of his performance at the National Secondary Schools athletics championships in Auckland in December last year.
Ellis won the local, regional, North Island and National paralympic discus titles in a breakthrough year.
Imagine having your ankles shackled together and walking on your toes all day. This is the agony Ben Ellis has endured his entire life.
The Year 13 student at St Patrick’s College, Wellington suffers from beals syndrome which essentially causes abnormal bone and aortic enlargement problems, inhibiting fluid movement.
“I can’t extend my arm like a normal person and struggle with basic flexion in my legs. I basically walk on my toes, which gets painful after a while but I have grown use to it,” Ellis elaborates.
Ellis dabbled in rugby, football and futsal, but it wasn’t until he was urged to get involved in athletics, he discovered his true sports calling.
“I got into throwing a discus when I was in Year 9. I hated it at first, but I kept at it because I was inspired by a Liam Malone speech at school. Two years ago I won the regionals and thought I might as well have a crack at the North Island’s. I won that to and started to like it.”
Ellis competes in the T43 (lower) or T45 (upper) body impairments classes. The later classification is where he most frequently competes. Ellis is coached by Wellington throwing guru and former National representative Shaka Sola.
“Shaka has taught me how to throw like an able-bodied athlete which has helped me increase my distances and forces me not to think about my disability,” Ellis acclaims.
In 2017, Ellis successfully defended his regional title, but hasn’t competed for several months after to surgery to remove his appendix. However his talent and promise has been recognised by Paralympics New Zealand. Ellis was one of only a dozen individuals selected in a National training squad for promising athletes.
“That was a surprise and a big deal. It’s great to have that support and I learned a lot at the camp in August in Auckland,” Ellis enthuses.
It was a big deal for Ellis winning the College Sport Wellington disabled athlete of the year award on Sunday night. Ellis joins paralympic swimming champion Mary Fisher as one of the select few to have claimed the prize.
Ellis will compete at the National Secondary Schools championships in Hastings in December. Despite little preparation, past form indicates Ellis will step up when it counts.
In 2018, Ellis is having a gap year. He plans on working at Thorndon New World while fundraising for trips to the Australian and Victorian championships.
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