They say the New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championships is one of the hardest events on the NZSS calendar to win. Just ask this year’s Senior Boys winner, Sam Tanner, Year 12, out of Bethlehem College.
“I knew there was going to be a heap of guys who were really fast and fit, but I was just preparing myself to push my body to its limit,” said Sam. “I didn’t have to quite do that, where I hit the wall, but it was a tough race.”
“I knew that I could win, it was just whether or not I wanted to win badly enough when I was out there racing and I did so I am pretty stoked with that,” after winning on Saturday at the Ascot Golf Course at QEII Park in Christchurch.
Sam headed a strong field of some 220 runners in the 6km, three-lap Senior Boys race, beating Hamilton Boys’ High School’s Isaiah Priddey by a second in a sprint finish and with local St Bede’s College’s Nick Moulai 10 seconds back in third, New Plymouth Boys’ High School’s Chris Devaney in fourth and MacLeans College’s Theo Quax in fifth.
Sam got himself well positioned in the leading group throughout the first lap. “I was happy to be right up the front there throughout the first lap and to get my frame of mind right for the second and third laps.”
“I really liked the track, with its corners and breakaway points, so was feeling good throughout the middle stages.”
It was a close racing well into the third lap. “With about 1km to go, Isaiah, Nick and I put on the pace. Isaiah pulled out in front and then we came out of a corner and broke the pack up. Isaiah surged ahead. Then on the last little finger with about 200-300m to go I passed Isaiah because I had the frame of mind that I had to be in front of him before the last two corners because it would be hard to get past him on the straight if he still had something left in the tank.”
In winning Saturday’s race, Sam drew on his recent experience running in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships.
“Isaiah and I ended coming across together in a photo finish for first equal. Our time read 19 minutes flat.”
Finishing in a dead heat at regionals was really helpful for Sam. “I made a little mistake in the last corner, which gave me the right insight into nationals. The last two corners I ended up running outside and I didn’t have the time to sprint past him. My frame in mind heading into nationals was that I had to take the front before those last two corners and I will win.”
On Sunday Sam, Isaiah and three others teamed up together for Waikato-Bay of Plenty to win the provincial Senior Boys 5 x 2km relay event. Waikato-BoP were near the front of the boys race with Canterbury over the first three laps, but moved ahead on lap four and by the time Isaiah took over for the final lap the victory was never in doubt.
Sam ran the first lap for his team, running with Nick Moulai who took the first lap for Canterbury. Sam and Nick finished in front more or less together and Sam’s Waikato-BoP carried on to win.
It was also a family affair over the weekend, with Sam’s younger brother Logan finished 10th in the Junior Boys race. The brothers get their talent from their mum Krissy Tanner, a former NZ 400m champion on the track.
This was Sam’s fourth NZSS Cross Country Championships. Last year in this first senior race he had a “bad race” and came 16th. In 2015 he came third in the Junior race, behind Isaiah and Nayland College’s Kalani Sheridan. In 2014 he won the Year 9 race.
He also thanked his coach, Craig Kirkwood. “He’s a great coach and pushes me to my limits and makes me run really well so I’m really thankful for him.”
Sam hasn’t got an extensive track background, but hopes to get into it more in to the future. Last year he came third in the road race at the NZSS Track and Field Championships in Auckland.
He enjoys other individual sports such as surfing, kite surfing and skateboarding and snowboarding. “Pretty much anything to do with a board I love.”
What’s coming up for Sam?
“My next big race will probably be the club cross country nationals in Auckland at the end of July and then hopefully the Australian Cross Country Nationals in Hobart and the National Road Racing Champs in Christchurch and then going into track.”
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