2022 could be young athletes’ year

Quinn Hartley was recently crowned Secondary School senior athlete of the year. Photo: Supplied

IF it wasn’t for Covid-19 and the cancellation of many events, including the national secondary schools championship at Inglewood, several medals would be coming Southland’s way.

If anyone was a favourite for a championship gold, it would be Quinn Hartley. The recently crowned Secondary School senior athlete of the year was a leading contender for two golds.

Last year, the James Hargest College (JHC) Year 13 pupil was second in the high jump with a Southland senior record (2.08).

Last year’s winner has left school, leaving the way clear for Hartley who tops in the national high jump rankings.

But as they say, that’s not all.

Since last year’s championship Hartley has broken the New Zealand M17 record with 7.30m, a mark the propelled him to the top M18 long jumper in the country. And the likelihood of another gold.

For some, there’s always next year. But not for Hartley. Nor for a quartet of juniors (under-16) who were definite medal prospects this year but next year graduate to senior ranks.

William Robertson was third in the 100m junior final last year. This year he is again a junior and a candidate to improve of his bronze.

The JHC 15-year-old proved his credentials by a resounding win in the South Island schools under-15 100m.

Southland Boys’ High School’s (SBHS) James McLeay was second in the junior road race last year and fourth in the steeplechase.

This was to be his year.

The recent finalist in the Southland Secondary School Sports Awards will be a senior next year and, while competitive, it is a big ask for a first-year senior to medal.

Certainly, McLeay and Robertson will have more chances in future years but being top of their junior grade happens only once.

That is not quite the situation with Kennedy Taylor (Southland Girls’ High School), Isla MacCallum (SGHS), Rico Fisher (SBHS) Carlie Scherp (SGHS) and Tessa Baird (Verdon), who are all top prospects.

Taylor is a first-year senior and, as a junior, won the steeplechase, 4km road race and was a close second in the 3000m last year. She will now have to wait another 12 months to see whether the junior medals translate into senior.

MacCallum is one of two in the shot put top 20 nationally and will still be a junior next year. Scherp won the discus at the South Islands and was also a top prospect for a medal. She will still be a junior next year so 2022 could be her year.

Fisher is ranked third nationally in the discus and has another year at school, so 2022 looks good. Baird, with another year of study, will certainly be a top triple jump prospect in 2022.

For some, there is next year and as noted coach Chris Knight said: “A good challenge ahead to strive for, for those stepping up”.

It is the medals that got away that disappoint. However, with disappointment comes determination. Roll on 2022.