The following has been written by Finlay Abbot - Dad, Sports Enthusiast & Bottle Washer at Sola Power Throwing Academy, Wellington.
In Wellington, early next month, around 25 tall, powerful young men will strive to take their place in New Zealand’s Secondary Schools sporting history in the Senior Boys Discus at the 47th NZSSA Track and Field Championships. The Discus is one of athletics’ oldest disciplines, with no less than 2,700 years of history.
I doubt very much that any of them will ponder the prospect of this particular competition beyond their own hopes and dreams. These young men will simply put their all into converting the months or even years of training and experience, into throwing a 1.5kg discus from here to eternity.
Discus training usually consists of three facets. Weight Training, normally Olympic Lifting, plyometrics and stretching and, of course, throwing….hundreds and hundreds of throws…it’s hard grinding work where improvements are measured in centimetres.
The pondering, prediction and discussion is the domain of old people, like me. One of the great pleasures of sport apart from participating surely is watching, admiring and talking about it?
A Brief History
The New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics (NZSSA) Championships began in 1973 and quickly grew to become the nation’s most popular athletics event, both in terms of numbers of competitors and numbers of spectators. Over a thousand athletes now take part with several thousand watching. It is a fantastic event which is a great advertisement for one of the few truly global sports
Some analysis of the Senior Boys Discus competitions, almost all of which are listed on the excellent archives section of the NZSSA website, reveals some sporting greats and also reveals the growth of throwing in particular.
The very first Senior Boys Champion was R. Smith of Reporoa College who threw 46.98m
1978, only four throwers take part, with the winner throwing 46m
1981, Grant Chapman sets the record at 52.60m with second and third respectively at 52m and 51m respectively – early promise of things to come.
1987 – the first name which stood out, Courtney Ireland (who went on to compete at the 1990 and 1994 Commonwealth Games) wins in a record 54.66m, then again in 1988 with 57.5m, with Pat Hellier second in 53.4m and Simon Read third in 52.98m. A standout year.
1989 – Courtney wins his 3rd title in succession in his final year at school with a mighty throw of 56.44m, Chris Mene (watch that name) is second in 55.02m and Pat Hellier 3rd in 51.94m.
These performances need context. The IAAF provides World Rankings each year with U18 as the youngest year group. The minimum threshold is 48m with the 1.5kg Discus. Throwing over 55m normally ranks in the top 50 in the World and top eight in Oceania (NZ, Australia and the Pacific Islands).
1990 – Chris Mene throws 61.76m to set a new record which stands for an amazing 27 years until 3 December 2017. An outstanding performance. Ian Winchester is a distant 2nd, over 10m back. Ian Winchester is the current NZ Senior Men’s Discus record holder with 65.03m. Ian wins the following year with 55.52m.
1995 – Shaka Sola – 2004 Athens Olympian – wins his first major crown. Shaka is now one of NZ’s top Throw coaches and athletics personalities. Walk with Shaka around the track at an Athletics meet but only if you are not in a hurry, it takes over an hour as he stops to talk to another friend he hasn’t seen in months.
2000 – I spot Thomas Waldrom’s name – Hurricane loose forward and English Rugby International.
2003 – All Black Great Victor Vito’s name appears.
2006 – Marshall Hall at 18 throws 50.79m, in 2017 Marshall Hall went to the World Champs after throwing 64.55m in the USA
2008 and 2009, World Champion Shot Putter, Tom Walsh’s name appears with a best of third in 49.71m.
Which brings us to 2013. Throw Coaches in NZ become misty eyed when they talk about this competition – one for the ages they say.
If there was a competition which demonstrates the Grand Canyon like abyss between where the competition started and what it has become, it was the Senior Boys Discus in 2013.
Sam Ulufonua wins with 58.60m. Sam is a strapping 6 foot 6 inch giant and has gone on to great things in representative rugby.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona is second in 58.47m. Another giant of similar stature. Now playing in the NRL with the Melbourne Storm.
Benedict Chong Wong is third in 51.81m
Matthew Bloxham is fourth in 50.66m – Matthew went on to set a NZ age group Hammer Record which still stands.
As if this was not enough, another seven throwers all throw in excess of 40m.
Astounding ! Amazing ! Never to be repeated ? Well, there’s a funny thing…
2015 – depending on how you look at it, this competition also ranks highly due to the amazing depth in the field and the performances themselves.
Nathanial Sulupo is first in 56.74m – Nathanial recently represented Samoa at the Pacific Games and medalled in both Shot and Discus.
Scott Gregory is in 54.80m – Scott still holds the NZSSA Junior Boys Hammer record. Scott has recently represented NZ in Rugby Sevens and plays for Northland.
Ben Power is third in 53.62m. Ben has played representative rugby for the Wellington Lions and Hawke’s Bay.
The depth of this field continued with an unprecedented 10 other throwers throwing over 40m.
Back to the Present
A preview is dangerous work….so many factors can ruin the outcome. In Discus, the weather is crucial and of course, we are dealing with young men, some of the most accident prone creatures on the planet.
My prediction is that the 2019 edition will eclipse those two magnificent competitions in 2013 and 2015.
It is likely to be the strongest field ever assembled and with kind weather and good fortune, will deliver an unmatched world class spectacle to those lucky enough to assemble on the steep dusty banks of Newtown Park
Connor Bell – Westlake Boys’ High School – aged 18 and half
Current record holder with 65.63m set in Hastings in 2017. The wind denied him the chance to improve the record in 2018. Connor is bound to be targeting 70m or more. Connor’s PB is an incredible 69.67m – this is an Unofficial World Record for a 17 year old (http://age-records.125mb.com/ ).
Another prediction – watch anyone throw an implement of any sort over 60m and you will let out an involuntary gasp and find yourself uttering the name of the Son of God.
Connor’s other Discus achievements include
2017 Youth Commonwealth Gold Medal & unofficial World Record of 63.66m as a 15 year old.
2018 Youth Olympics Gold Medal.
IAAF U18 World Rankings – 1st in 2018 and 2nd in 2017
Current NZ U18 and U20 record holder.
Nik Kini – formerly of Whangarei Boys’ High School and now at Shirley Boys’ High in Christchurch – aged 17 and half
Nik is 2019 NZ U18 Discus Champion. Nik has a current U18 IAAF world ranking of 9th and is number one in Oceania & NZ
Nik’s recent PB is 60.60m from 26 Oct 2019, hence my safe prediction is that Nik will throw over 60m.
Nik is also one of the top Shot Putters and Hammer Throwers for his age in Oceania and will be targeting Gold in both.
Nik has also played age group representative rugby for Northland.
Zion Trigger-Faitele – Scots College – turns 18 in Jan 2020
Zion won Silver in U18 Discus at the 2019 Australian Champs with 56.80m, his PB
Zion currently holds almost all age group records in Wellington from age 14 onwards for Shot Put and Discus
Zion’s U18 IAAF world ranking is 32 and he is ranked fifth in Oceania and second in NZ
Zion will also compete in Shot Put where he will push Nik Kini for Gold. Zion is also a representative basketballer.
Liam Ngchok-Wulf – Manurewa High School – 16 and half years
Liam’s improvement in 2019 has been astonishing. Liam has a recent PB of 55.92m from 26 Oct 19 which sees him ranked 44th in the World, 7th in Oceania and 3rd in NZ.
Liam is 2019 North Island Secondary Schools Intermediate Discus Champion and won a Bronze in U16 Hammer at the 2018 NZSSA Champs.
Liam is currently ranked second in Shot Put and fourth in Hammer in NZ in U18 grade where he will push hard for a medal in both events.
The 11 amazing athletes below all have current PB’s over 40m with some incredible talent in other events and some are bound to surprise.
James Coates, St Bede’s College – 47.36m – Consistent improver over the last four years in both Shot and Discus. Second Senior Boys Discus 2019 South Island Schools Champs.
Laycian Leaso, St Peter’s College – 46.66m – Discus specialist. Third U18 2019 Auckland Champs and CSW Regionals in Intermediate grade.
Max Abbot, Wellington College – 46.61m – Silver medallist 2018 NZ Schools U16 Discus. Second 2019 North Island Champs Intermediate Discus. Rapidly improving in both Discus and Hammer this season. Related to the Author.
Joseph Ford, Nelson College – 46.43m – Discus specialist. 2019 Senior Boys South Island Schools Champion.
Louis Northcott, Kapiti College – 46.33m – Sub 50 second 400m runner and Decathlete. Third Senior Boys Discus at 2019 North Island Schools Champs. Bronze medallist at 2019 NZ U20 Decathlon Champs.
Jayden Williamson, Rosmini College – 44.90m – Gold Medallist in 2018 U16 NZ Schools Discus, Hammer and High Jump. Current NZ Schools U16 High Jump record holder. Represented NZ at 2019 Oceania Champs winning Silver in U18 High Jump. Ranked 45th in the World in U18 High Jump.
Tamatoa Tepai, Auckland Grammar School – 44.03m – Discus specialist. Has featured in a number of Schools and Club events in the last two years.
Liam Johnson, Timaru Boys – 43.39m – Third at 2019 Senior Boys Discus, South Island Schools Champs. Outstanding Hammer Thrower currently ranked second in NZ in U20.
Joshua Bull, Catholic Cathedral College – 43m – Decathlete. Bronze medal at 2019 U18 NZ Decathlon Champs. Gold Medal at 2019 NZ Track and Field Champs in U18 Pole Vault.
Jordyn Hetaraka, Whangarei Boys High – 42.99m – 2019 Bronze medal at NZ Track and Field Champs in U18 Discus. Outstanding Hammer Thrower winning Silver at 2019 NZ Track and Field Champs in both U18 and U20 grades.
Tama Bartlett, Wairarapa College – 40.88m – 2019 Wairarapa Senior Boys Champion. Also capable performer at Javelin and Shot Put
By my calculations we could see someone throw 50m, which would achieve a good IAAF U18 World and Oceania ranking and “only” get 6th in this competition – shades of the historic Men’s Shot Put at the 2019 World Champs in Doha.
The Stage is set – come and see the show, 2pm Sunday 8 December, Newtown Park, Wellington.
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