Who to watch for at the NZSS Champs

Southland Girls' High School pupil Kennedy Taylor (1313) wins the junior 3000m at the NZSS Championships last year. Photo: Rowan Grieg

THE New Zealand Secondary Schools is possibly the hardest track and field championship to win.

Athletes come out of the woodwork, with speedsters from other sports pitting themselves against the “athlete” athletes. So, surprises are always possible, unknowns often upset the established.

Predictions then become difficult. However, we will give it a go, naming some of the Southlanders who could go well at the secondary school champs in Tauranga next month.

Southland schools have a proud record at the school champs. They should again this year. Here are some of the names to look for in the results.

Quinn Hartley (James Hargest College). Quinn was the star of last year’s championships, winning all three junior jumps with the long jump a national secondary school record. He is the top-ranked under-18 long jumper in the country and a close second in the high jump. At the New Zealand track and field champs, he came away with three medals. He is the youngest New Zealand athlete to clear 7m in the long jump and 2m in the high. Although now in the senior division, the 16-year-old is as close as you can get to a medal certainty and is again entered in the three jumps.

Trent Hogg (Southland Boys’ High School). Can Trent get among the medals? His recent Southland M16/17 shotput record suggests he can. At last year’s champs he finished 10th in the shotput and not much lower in the discus as a first-year senior. This year the 17-year-old has considerably increased his distances and is now seen as a medal contender. He is ranked second nationally in the under-18 shotput, with his Southland record putting him just a few centimetres from first and third in the discus and has consistently been Southland’s best thrower through the season. Trent is also entered in the 100m, an event he does to add to his speed for his specialist throwing disciplines.

James McLeay (Southland Boys’ High School). The 14-year-old has shown his potential this year, winning the Southland secondary schools under-14 cross country and establishing himself nationally with the under-16 bronze medals at the recent national Cross-country Challenge and New Zealand road champs. James is entered in the 3000m and steeplechase but his best chance will come in the Year 9 road race.

Tessa Baird (Verdon College). Fourth last year in the junior triple jump and bronze medallist at this year’s national championships, the 16-year-old has been a steady improver during the year but as a first year in the senior ranks will have to be on top of her form to be among the medals. But she is capable of it and with Southland’s proud record in the triple jump, cannot be overlooked.

Sam McDonald (Southland Boys’ High School). Sam had a not-so-memorable championship last year, fouling all his jumps. He hopes to make amends this year. The 17-year-old showed he can get it right by winning silver at this year’s track and field championship. He is capable of a finals place, therefore possibly a medal. But having last year’s winner Charles Annals, of Hamilton Boys’, in the field won’t make it any easier for him.

Kennedy Taylor (Southland Girls’ High School). Taylor is the returning secondary schools 3000m track champion and bronze medallist at this year’s track and field champs. The diminutive 15-year-old powerhouse is entered in the 3000m, the 2km steeple and junior 4km road race. Current rankings (highest ranked 15-year-old for 3000m, 1500m and 2nd steeplechase, therefore still in the junior events) suggest she could be three-times medallist.

William Robertson (James Hargest College). In his first national championship last year, William surprised himself by making the quarterfinals of the 100m. This year he is targeting the final and a hard-earned increase in speed over the past few months indicates he could make it. He also has a chance of a high placing in the triple jump.

Teagan Ashley (Aparima College). At last year’s secondary school champs Teagan finished fourth in the hammer, her favourite event. She then improved to the silver medal at the track and field champs. Tauranga will be the final school champs for the year 13 pupil. Count on her making it a good one.

Riancke Slump (Northern Southland College). Along with Teagan Ashley, Riancke will give the senior hammer field a strong Southland presence. The 16-year-old did not compete at last year’s secondary school champs but has made considerable gains in the past few months to be a hammer finals possibility. She is also entered in the shot put.

Bernice Cullen (Northern Southland College). Bernice jumped into the finals in the junior long jump a year ago but this year she is first year in senior ranks so will find the going tougher. But the just-turned 16-year-old is certainly capable of a high placing.

Rico Fisher (Southland Boys’ High School). Rico has demonstrated he is one of Southland’s better young throwers. A talented all-rounder (1st in the recent NZ Combined Events M16 octathlon, an event not on the secondary school programme), the 15-year-old is busying himself during the three days with the long jump, discus and shot put.

Aiden McAra (Southland Boys’ High School). The Secondary Schools always provide a bolter or two, usually more. This promising distance runner could be Southland’s bolter. Aiden ran with success but without distinction through the year, but remarkable improvement lately makes him one to watch in the senior 3000m and road race.Authentic Nike Sneakersnike headquarters Sneakers