Te Anau park tests runners

Southland Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships senior girls' division winners (from left) Hannah Battrick, Emily Hays, Briana Ferguson after being presented with their medals in Te Anau last week. Photo: Supplied

TE ANAU’S Ivon Wilson Park was a picture on a crisp, clear day where vivid autumnal leaves left a carpet of colour across the ground.

However, the large number of school pupils there last Wednesday were not there to study nature but to test themselves over the park’s demanding ups and downs for the Southland Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships.

A feature of the championships was the winning margins of the top runners so than in the under-14 boys where Jude Deaker (Wakatipu High School) put a minute on second placed Tom Schenk (also WHS) who, in turn, had a comfortable 15-second buffer ahead of James Fleming (James Hargest College). Deaker’s 3km in 10.08 was a championship record.

Another record went to James McLeay (Southland Boys’ High School) in the under-16 boys, running 4km in 14.04, to lead in Ethan Friend (St Peter’s College, Gore) by a more-than-comfortable 48 seconds. However, the gap between second and third was just a second after a frantic sprint finish between Friend and Atlas Kerr (SBHS.)

Emily Hay (JHC) won her senior 4km by 50 seconds from Hannah Battrick (WHS) who then had 48 seconds over Brianna Ferguson (Menzies College) in third.

James Hargest also took senior boys’ honours thanks to Corvin O’Rourke, usually a 400-800m specialist but using cross-country to boost his track strength.

The under-16 girls’ event promised to be the race of day

Samantha Fookes (WHS) and Kennedy Taylor are New Zealand and South Island secondary school track champions, with Fookes having the edge in speed (she is a NZ Secondary Schools and South Island schools 800m winner) and Taylor strength (she won steeplechase at NZ and SI champs).

It came down to a contest of speed versus strength over the 3km. Fookes led with Taylor shadowing her but on the hilly back part of the course, Taylor made her move, took the lead and powered home. But she never completely dropped Fookes, winning by 9 seconds, about 50 metres. Up-and-comer Kimberley Iversen (JHC) was a further 33 seconds back but had a good minute’s cushion over fourth-placed Mackenzie Napier (Gore High School). Taylor’s 10.08 was a course record.

Wakatipu High came away with more medals than any other school, seven, to JHC’s five, with Siena Mackley and Pippa McAtamney contributing to the total with their first and second respectively in the under-14 girls’ 3km.

Again, the gap was significant, Mackley having 23 seconds over second and third Harriet Baker (St Peter’s) a full 34 seconds further back.

Libby Fox (Fiordland College) won the under-13 girls’ 3km and Dylan Collins (WHS) the under-13 boys’.