Young athletes fly the flag for southern schools

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Quinn Hartley in action last year. Photo: Karen Pasco

IF expectations had colours, it could be the bright red and yellow of Hargest.

The James Hargest College pairing of Quinn Hartley and William Robertson were favourites in the long jump at the South Island Secondary Schools (SISS) athletic championships last weekend.

The pair did not disappoint.

Quinn cleared 6.99 metres on his final jump to win the senior competition by 54cm and equal the meet record.

Even his worst measure was better than the second placegetter’s best jump.

Quinn was also second in the high jump.

William gave Hargest another long jump title, winning the under-15 grade with a first round 6.18m, just 2cm shy of the meet record.

As well as the long jump, the talented 14-year-old won his 100m, was second in the triple jump and anchored his Hargest 4 x 100m relay team to a win.

Kennedy Taylor topped the national steeplechase under-18 rankings and easily won the NZSS junior steeple, so was favourite for the open steeple.

Being an open event, the 15-year-old was competing against 17 and 18-year-olds. Her favouritism was not misplaced as she put the disappointments of not placing in the earlier 1500m and 3000m behind her, not to mention the rest of the field to win by nine seconds.

The next two finishers had both beaten Kennedy in earlier races so even as favourite, the gruelling 2000m event with hurdles and a water jump was no foregone conclusion for the Southland Girls’ High School (SGHS) athlete.

Rico Fisher was another expected to win based on his national under-18 discus ranking of number 2, with the top-ranked an Aucklander who was not at the South Island champs. The South Island’s best duly delivered, winning the under-16 discus by 40cm with third nearly 10m further back.

The Southland Boys’ High School (SBHS) athlete also finished second in the shot.

James McLeay, with placings in national cross-country, road and secondary schools championship, was the one to beat in the under-15 3000m. His tactic was to go out hard and dare everyone else to catch him. One did, but the effort of catching up was too much and the SBHS athlete found another gear and opened up a good lead in the last two laps. Then, 45 minutes later, he summoned all his remaining strength to place third in the open steeplechase.

As well as the Southlanders carrying the weight of expectations, there were many who flew under the radar but were more than capable of winning.

Isla MacCullum is one. The 13-year-old SGHS year 9 pupil broke the under-14 shot put record with 11.99, exceeding the record set in 2013 by 12cm. Carlie Scherp added to SGHS’ throwing achievements, winning the under-14 discus and hammer as well as giving her school two out of three in the medals by placing third in the shot behind Isla’s record-breaking effort. Riancke Slump gave Northern Southland College a throws title by taking out the senior hammer by an impressive 7m.

Along with the SISS champions, every athlete from Southland schools were winners irrespective of placing to get there you had to qualify by finishing in top three at the Southland champs.

With the SISS in Invercargill next year, expect to see even more winners.

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