Cold, windy weather in Christchurch last Saturday was nobody’s friend, but it helped Macleans College runner Theo Quax beat a strong field of rival runners to win the New Zealand U20 men’s road race championships.
Theo used his track speed to good effect to pull clear of the field in the closing stages of the eight-lap 1km circuit.
“My dad [coach and Olympic medallist Dick Quax] and I thought it would be a really tactical race because of the strong winds and really cold conditions,” he told College Sport Media. “There were lots of strong athletes like Mitchell Small, Oli Chignall and James Uhlenburg and I just planned to try and stay with them as long as I could and then use my speed at the end to try and get a podium finish.”
The plan worked perfectly. After sitting with the chasing group for much of the race, he surged away over the final lap to win from Oli Chignall (recent NZ cross country champion and former John McGlashan College) and Mitchell Small (former NZSS cross country champion and former St Andrew’s College).
Theo said that it was a tough run home.
“That last lap was real tough, especially with Oli pushing that last lap. It was a struggle to hang on over the final 400m and I was thankful I did. I knew who ever rounded that last corner first would come out with it so I had to push it into there,” he said.
Next up for Theo are the Auckland Schools road race and the national road relays, where he will be representing his Pakuranga club.
Then the NZSS Track and Field Championships in Hastings in December, where he is going to concentrate on the senior 1500m. “I am not really a fan of doubling at events like that, that are only over two or three days.”
“I think that Isaiah Priddey [Hamilton Boys’ High School] and James Uhlenberg [Sacred Heart College] will only be doing the 1500m and we are all going for a good time there.”
The middle distance races at the NZSS championships are always hotly contested.
Last year in Auckland Theo finished third behind winner Matthew Manning of Saint Kentigern College and Nick Mouai of St Bede’s College after settling in amongst the leaders midway through the 1500m.
There was a moment of drama on the home straight when Nick was checked on the heels of Matthew and almost crashed out. “That was a hard race and a really good win from Matt, the finish of that race is just the nature of the sport,” explained Theo.
Watch last year’s Senior Boys 1500m final here (Theo representing Macleans College in white singlet):
Theo, who is head boy at Macleans College this year, won’t be the only athlete from his school with high hopes in Hastings this December.
“My good friend Flynn Palmer will be going for gold in the 800m, while Kamal Patwalia is a sprinter and long jumper looking for a podium place as well.”
Theo recently watched a lot of the World Track and Field Championships from London on television, taking a particularly keen interest in the middle distance races.
“I get nervous watching Nick Willis though, I find he gets himself boxed in a lot.”
Theo explained that going forward, the 800m and 1500m races are what he wants to concentrate on. “With the distance races I just try and hang in there as long as I can and then let go towards the end.”
Nothing is firmed yet, but he is eyeing up a running scholarship in the USA next year.
Hutt Valley High School now has two national champion runners. Nick Smith is the incumbent NZSS Senior Boys 100m and 200m champion, while Phoebe McKnight is the newly crowned national U18 women’s cross country champion.
On Saturday, Year 11 student Phoebe won the Women’s U18 race at the New Zealand Cross Country Championships at the Auckland Domain.
“It’s probably the biggest win I have had so far,” she said, “I hadn’t raced in quite a while but I knew that I had a chance going into it.”
Phoebe won the 4km event in a brisk 14m 34s – 41 seconds ahead of second placed Charli Miller (St Peter’s School, Cambridge) who was just ahead of Liliana Braun (Cashmere High School).
“For about 1km I was running with Charli just behind me, and then she dropped off from there and I managed to pull away and win on my own.”
The win comes a month after she finished second in a tight Senior Girls race to the well-performed Hannah O’Connor (Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth) at the New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championships in Christchurch.
“I loved that race, it was good to be competitive with her, and it probably made for a good race for her as well as she must get sick of leading all the time!”
Phoebe, who won the year nine race two years ago, and Hannah were neck-and-neck throughout the NZSS event, Hannah eventually winning by three seconds and with almost 30 seconds back to third place and defending champions Tessa Webb (Feilding High School).
Next week she’s off overseas representing New Zealand. “In just over a week I am going over to Australia with the NZSS team for the Australian Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships.”
Phoebe is part of a 24-strong New Zealand team (12 boys and 12 girls) competing in the U18 and U20 races at the Australian championships in Hobart Jayme Maxwell, who is also from Hutt Valley High School, finished sixth in the same NZSS race and will be joining Phoebe in Hobart in the Girls U18 race.
Phoebe is also a track runner, specialising in the middle distance events.
“I’m old enough now to do the 5,000m, so I think either the 3,000m or the 5,000m is my specialty.”
She loves training around the local hills where she lives. “I like the eastern Hutt hills, the firebreaks. I like the Hutt Valley as there’s lots of different options. I am definitely a mountain goat.”
Phoebe was a competitive swimmer before she took up running seriously. “I have always done running and competitively outside school I have been running for four-five years now, but I have been swimming for longer.”
She won a bronze in the 200m butterfly at the national age grade champs.
What about combining the two and adding cycling in as well? “I have got my school triathlon coming up and my mum was a triathlete, so maybe when I get some downtime I will try them out.”
Hawke's Bay shotputter Nick Palmer has been named New Zealand team flag bearer for the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.
The 17 year old is the New Zealand 2017 Youth Men’s champion and also won the Youth Men’s division at the 2017 Australian National Athletics Championships. Palmer is ranked third for under 20’s in Australasia and has a personal best of 19.97m, which he hopes to better in the Bahamas.
The year 12 Karamu High School student is honoured to have been named flag bearer and says he plans to represent New Zealand with pride on and off the field.
“This is the biggest thing that I’ve done so I’m pretty happy with this, I'm very proud to be here and hopefully I can bring a gold home for New Zealand," Palmer said.
“It’s something not many people get to do, so to get to do it at my age and at one of the highest levels you can is pretty special."
New Zealand Team Athlete Support Leader Kristy Hill says Palmer was chosen not just because of his outstanding athletic record but also because of the discipline and leadership he displays across the board.
“Nick has a very impressive ability to excel at a range of disciplines while being a team player and an inspiration to others”, Kristy said.
“He exemplifies all the attributes that are key to being both a successful athlete and one New Zealand can be proud of. He has a big future ahead of him.”
The announcement was made at a function held for the New Zealand team in the Bahamas which was attended by around 60 team members and supporters.
Palmer was nominated by Athletics New Zealand and selected by Athlete Support Leader Kristy Hill and New Zealand Olympic Committee Team Services Co-ordinator Toni Kidwell.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Games the Hastings Athletic Club Member was training six days a week, often twice a day, while still maintaining his studies. He is coached by Dale Stevenson who also coaches Olympic Bronze medallist Tom Walsh.
Outside sport Palmer is a leader at school and in cultural activities. He is a member of Karamu High School Elite Choir and is a regular performer in groups on vocals and guitar.
Palmer believes he’ll gain invaluable experience from competing in a multi-sport environment against some of the best throwers in the world. His ultimate goal is to compete at the Olympic Games.
“This is my future, I want to go the highest you can in New Zealand, I want a push at being the best in the world, I don’t think any good sportsperson out there doesn’t want to be the best in the world," Palmer said.
As flag bearer Palmer will lead the 33 strong New Zealand team at the opening ceremony on the evening of Tuesday July 18th (Bahamas time).
From June 28 to July 1, New Zealand athletes won 34 titles at the Oceania Area Athletics Championships in Suva and a total of 74 medals across the six age grades and Para events.
Cameron Miller from Otago Boys’ High School was a convincing victor in the Under-18 decathlon, so much so he was hopeful for stiffer competition.
“It was a little bit disappointing to be honest. The standard of competition was like a National event in New Zealand. I was hoping there would be someone at the same level or slightly better than me,” Miller observes.
Miller won the gold medal by over 1100 points. Luke Hunter from Australia proved less competitive than expected and even the Fijian weather was manageable.
“It was overcast and about 25 degrees on the days of the competition. I thought it would be hotter, but am glad it wasn’t,” Miller reveals.
Miller is ranked number 1 nationally after winning the NZ Under 18 Combined title in February scoring 5691 points, ahead of Matthew Aucamp (Elim Christian College) and Jared Neighbours (Papanui High School).
Going into the final event 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.
Miller will attend the National Secondary School championships in Hastings in December and could compete in the long jump, high jump, discus and 400m. There is no heptathlon so his next challenge is to improve his National senior ranking which give or take some weight and height adjustments is in the top five.
“My big work on is pole vault. I have jumped a 2.90 in training, but my best recorded jump is 2.70 which is terrible. I don’t really enjoy pole vault, but I am working hard to change that,” Miller assesses.
Miller plays third XV rugby in the winter. In 2016, he accidentally dislocated his shoulder in a play fight with a mate.
“I pushed my friend so in retaliation he tugged my arm and the shoulder popped out. It took a while to recover,” Miller laughs.
Miller is coached by Brent Ward (track) and Dave McNeil (throwing). He is grateful for the support of his parents as well.
Miller is a focused academic and intends to study health science and medicine science at Otago University next year.
Miller’s Personal Best’s
Long Jump: 6.59m
Shot Put: 11.19m
High Jump: 1.87m
110m Hurdles: 16.6s
Pole Vault: 2.70m
Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, Wellington, Year 12 high jumper Imogen Skelton joins the 34-strong New Zealand squad in the Bahamas later this month for the Youth Commonwealth Games.
Imogen is one of 11 young kiwis in the Track and Field team, and the only athlete representing Wellington. College Sport Media caught up with Imogen ahead of the trip.
What events are you entered you are entered in and what are your expectations?
I am entered in both the high jump and 800m; however I am just going to be doing the high jump so that I can focus solely on that in order to get the best results possible. I am not sure what to expect seeing as this is my first international athletics competition, but I am hoping to get a personal best.
Is this first time you will be pulling on the black singlet and representing New Zealand?
Last year I represented New Zealand Secondary Schools in cross country at the Australian Cross Country Champs. I don’t think I performed at my best at this event, but it was a really great experience.
Was selection in this team something you had been working towards for some time, was this your goal?
I have always wanted to represent New Zealand in athletics, and so when I found out about the opportunity of being selected for this team it was definitely a goal of mine.
How and when did you qualify for the YCG? Was there a target you had to reach in both the High Jump and 800m?
I found out that I had been selected on 8 May. There were no qualifying standards set by Athletics New Zealand, which made it quite hard to know what to aim for in order to qualify. You just had to apply for the team and then the decisions as to who were selected were made by Athletics NZ and the NZOC, and were based off of performances throughout the season and at the national champs.
Speaking of the two events you are in, are high jump and 800m slightly contrasting events?
Yes they are quite contrasting events. I have always done lots of different events since I was young and I really enjoy both and so have carried on doing both. It is quite challenging to train and compete in the two, so I normally focus on just one for a period of time depending on what competitions I have coming up.
You’ll be coming from the middle of a NZ (Wellington) winter into the hot climate of the Bahamas, how is your training going at the moment and what are you doing training-wise?
The change in climate will definitely be a shock to the system, but I always jump better when it is warm, and I have plenty of time to acclimatise before I compete. So I am looking forward to the hot weather. My training is going well at the moment, I have been doing a mix of strength, speed and technique based training sessions.
What events have you most recently been competing in?
I have done a few of the school cross country events such as the CSW and NZSS cross country champs, however I have just been doing them for fun and haven’t actually been training for them as the long distance training doesn’t have many benefits for high jump.
How did you get into athletics, at what age or competition did you discover you could jump high and run fast?
I realised that I was good at athletics at primary school in about year 4 when I won many of the events at the school athletics day and cross country. I then joined Wellington Harrier Athletics Club when I was 10 and have been doing athletics ever since.
When you return from the YCT what will be your next challenge?
When I return from the Bahamas I will begin preparing for the summer athletics season. I will probably do a few of the local interclubs when the track season starts but the main focus for the rest of this year will be the NZSS Championships.
Do you play other sports, socially or competitively?
I just do athletics in terms of sport, but I also do dancing twice a week.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand