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Saturday, November 10, 2018

2018 The Agency Group Festival of 10ks Newtown Park Sat 10 Nov

Nick Horspool, ran an amazing sub-30min for 10k, one of the fastest at Newtown Park for decades

Rees Buck talks to Nick, Horspool, Sam Tanner, Aex Hull and Toby Gualter 


It was certainly a night to remember and frankly you had to be there. There is video available for each of the races which can be found here.

Not only was the weather near perfect for distance running, the seeding and pacer set-up was likely to produce many personals best times and I am of the understanding that the official results will show these?

The purpose behind the Agency Group 10k races as conveyed to me by Stephen Day was to get as many people as possible running the distance and to give some of NZ’s quicker athletes a chance to post performance standard times as a precursor to possible selection for the World Cross Country Champs to be held in Denmark next March.

And on both counts the event more that met its aims.

There were of course some disappointments. Oscar Inskter-Baynes with a 67 minute Auckland Half-Marathon win a week or so ago was unable to make it and nor were some of the other out of town runners originally listed as confirmed entries. 

Or as Stefan Smith said on Facebook all the way from Australia “will be a few kicking themselves that (they) didn’t make the trip for this one surely with some WXC spots up for grabs” 

It may not be as simple as that Stefan but maybe it could be a case of “build it and they will come”. So maybe next year they will come.

The set-up involved 3 races, each seeded based on estimated times. There were pacers in the fields to try and pull runners through to the results needed and this worked exceptionally well.    

This was the start-list

The line-up for Race 1 was huge, around 39 or so give or take. 

For many this would have been the first 10k run on the track so PB’s were guaranteed. 

Typically fields tend to break up after a lap or three and you are in luck if you can get into a group and get pulled along. There is no guarantee you won’t get dropped but sometimes going quicker than you think you should be can pay off, or not.  

There was some fine team running from the WHAC contingent of Paul Hewitson, Joseph Cruden, Nick Perry and James Waite.  

Whether this was a deliberate strategy or not they were the first four home. Interestingly Lisa Whitham another WHAC was not that far back off this group, less than a minute at the end so watch out boys.

The pacers in this race were James Turner and Chan Kulathilake who did their job well. 

In race 2 the starting line-up field was a bit smaller with Dan Hunt and Eric Speakman from the Victoria University club on pacer duty along with Andy Ford from Scottish. 

Included in the field was Lisa Cross the current Senior Women’s XC  who showed she is not somebody to be messed with on the track.  

Lisa had a storming run finishing in 32.23 which is well under the WXC performance standard. This time, along with her national XC title makes her a certainty for selection. 

Also in the field were Nicole Mitchell, Inspector Mel Aitken (Leith) and running legend and masters champion Sally Gibbs.  

I am not sure what Scott Russell was doing in this race as he is no slug and I would have thought he would have been in the elite race. But of course he could be recovering from injury or sickness and was unsure of his fitness, using this race as a test. Somebody will know.

In race 3, which was for the elite runners all eyes would have been on Nick Horspool the fastest distance man in Wellington and one of the event organisers. 

But there was also Sam Tanner inter alia the two-time NZ Secondary Schools National Cross Country Champion in the Senior Boys grade in town to see if he could snap up a WXC qualifying time.  

Also in the field was Chris Dryden the current Men’s U20 track 10,000m champion with a best over the distance of 30.59 , not to mention very handy over XC as well. 

There were also a  number of other senior and junior runners out to catch the eyes of at least one of the selectors which today would have been Craig Motley. 

Leading the seniors out as pacer was John Walker lookalike, Olympian Hamish Carson fresh from smashing the Waterfront 5km record a week or two back. 

Other pacers were the “world famous” Craig Kirkwood, Evan Cooper and Kieron Sexton the latter two pacing the junior group.

The official results from this race are:

Senior Men
29.50 Nick Horspool (WCX PS)
30.06 Niam Macdonald
30.38 Chris Dryden

Junior Men
31.26 Sam Tanner (WCX PS)
31.34 Alex Hull (WCX PS)
31.41 Toby Gaulter (WCX PS)

For the record, the performance standard times for the World XC are as below. But if you did well in the National XC then this is also a factor in selection. There is some fine print around this and what is meant by doing well depends on whether a team is to be sent or just an individual. There are pages and pages of other criteria but what most of us want to know is can those selected run fast.

WXC Performance Standards
30.00 min – Senior Men’s 10km
35.00 min – Senior Women’s 10km
32.50 min – Junior Men’s 10km (the WXC race is 8km)
17.30 min – Junior Women’s 5km  (the WXC race is 6km)

Achieving a 30.00 min time on NZ soil is a rarity these days and most who have done it in recent times have done so off-shore. So it was a delight to see Nick Horspool crash through the time barrier to grab a 29.50 finish, especially since it was at Newtown Park. Nobody can take that away Nick.

But back in 2nd was the loping figure of NiamMacDonald who continues to surprise with his great results – I mean what a fantastic 18 months he has had and to cap 2018 with a PB of 30.06 is just icing on the cake. 

But it does worry me that he could be over-racing a tad, which is also what Dan Jones might be guilty of. 

Dan did not have a good day and it probably isn’t surprising since he is probably still recovering from his 2nd place at the recent Auckland marathon.

The juniors did exceptionally well with 3 of them meeting the WXC performance standard by more than a minute in fact.  The fact that Sam Tanner did it is no surprise. Trained by Craig Kirkwood Tanner is destined for great things. 

But with Alex Hull and Toby Gualter also picking up qualifying times it just goes to show what can be achieved with determination, the right training and the right competitive/pacer set-up. I should mention decent conditions as well which today were faultless.

 I don’t know much about Alex but Toby has had a good year in athletics and I guess all of the training and racing is paying off.

I know others will have a different view but when it comes to selecting a team for the World XC I think that preference should be those who are actively running/racing in NZ.  

The fact that there are some good Kiwi performers overseas should not be a factor since one of the primary objectives in sending teams away to represent NZ should be to give them experience in international competitions. We know that the chances of winning individual titles and team races is slim, but ANZ do not pay a brass razoo toward trip costs, in fact in addition to their own travel and accommodation costs those selected have to contribute a management fee for team management and staff etc.  

So with this in mind I believe picking NZ domiciled runners is the decent thing to do.

I wouldn’t argue for this approach for stadia events such as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games but for non-stadia events it seems to be a fair and reasonable policy.

I can hear and see Rees Buck muttering and shaking his head.

I think most will agree that the Agency Group 10K meeting was hugely successful, the question now is what happens next and can it be built on.  


Excellent crowd support for all competitors

A big team of lap counters were needed. 

Tommy Boyd of Vic Uni came to grief just before the bell lap with what looked like a pulled calf, but still managed to finish but in some discomfort.

8 DNF's in the elite race. Interesting

Race 3 Photos (there is some noise in the pics because of the low light and high ISO).

Race 2 Photos

Race 1 Photos