Competitors and spectators couldn’t have asked for a better day for the return of cross country racing to Harcourt Park. The location is such a scenic venue with the colour of late autumn permeating the surroundings.
The course layout was mostly the same as with previous years, with the odd adjustment. So a mix of flat and rises, some of them quite sharp gives for some interesting not to mention challenging racing.
The programme consisted of 7 races covering 2lm, 3km, 4km and 6 km configured around a 1km lap and a full 2km lap.
The first race of the day was for the AWD group (Athletes with a Disability) and the small group of boys and girls all managed to finish the 2km course with a mix of running and walking, which is perfectly fine. Making provision for AWD is now pretty standard for secondary schools athletic events and I think this is much appreciated by the kids and their caregivers.
In the girl’s year 9 3km race, it was Hutt Valley High in 1st and 2nd place which is interesting considering they only had 3 competitors representing the school in this particular grade.
The race winner Eva Green looked well in control of the race leading from the get-go. Her efficient style is reminiscent of former HVH student Phoebe McKnight and with her compact frame was able to efficiently eat up the ground.
In the boys year 9 race the Callum Wos, a regular at the waterfront 5km series, was shadowed for most of the race by Jagun Gunregiav- Willers from St Pats Town who was content to sit and wait until he made his move. I suspect that this came with a blast in the last 400/500 of the race as the time differential at the finish indicated that he had well and truly cleared out.
Wellington Girls College claimed the first 3 places in the intermediate girls 3km race which turned out to be a procession. Amy McHardy held the lead by a small margin from Ava Sutherland at the halfway point which she managed to hold on to until the end.
In the 4km two-lap boy’s race, Max Poland led a group of 3/4 which included the eventual winner Luca Evett and 2nd finisher Ben Brunner, both Wellington College students.
The main observations with this race were that Max Poland faded badly in lap 2 but moving through was Onslow College student Max Doherty who at one stage led the two Wellington College kids and was still a whisker in front with 100m to go.
But it all came down to a sprint finish and at the end, there were only 2/3 seconds separating the first 3, and considering it was manual timing the differential may have actually been less.
The fields for the Senior Girls races tend to be smaller than for other races and this seems to be the case at the national school XC event as well. I am not sure why.
The starting lineup included some familiar faces including Ruby Barton, the Squire sisters and Katelyn Sceats etc.
And while all of these runners made a valiant showing the race was well and truly dominated by Meagan Casey from St Mary’s College. Leading from start to finish Casey was able to lead the chasing group, now a bit spread out, on a merry run uphill and down dale. It will be interesting to see how she fares at the national event to be held in Hawera next month.
The outcome of the final race of the day the 3xlap 6km senior Boys race was never in doubt.
Will Anthony representing Scots College absolutely killed it, which confirms him as one of the favourites for this race at next month’s NZ Sec Schools National XC Champs.
So while his win at Harcourt was assured – he ended up finishing nearly a minute faster than the next runner across the line, these races are important to get a feel for the distance and the terrain.
But in the lineup were some very capable athletes competing in the SB grade for the first time so how the finish would be resolved was going to be interesting. This included the very talented and speedy Jack Hunter from Rathkeale College, Josh Jordan from St Pats Silverstream, Jack Julian from Wellington College plus Liam Wright from Tawa College. From memory, Liam Wright won the Intermediate boys race in 2019.
It was Jack Hunter who made the pace in pursuit of Will Anthony with Josh Jordan on his shoulder. Julian and Wright were a few metres back. The peloton was within shouting distance and it would be hard to miss the large representation from Wellington College and the intra-school rivalry this would produce.
At the start of lap two, Jack Hunter and Josh Jordon were still leading the chase, with Jack Julian and Liam Wright following. Jack Hunter ultimately pulled away to finish a comfortable 2nd with Josh Jordan finishing in 3rd place 3rd.
Oscar Crowe from Wellington College had in the meantime pulled away from the large following group which by now was well strung out and it was he who ultimately picked up Jack Julian and Liam Wright to finish 4th.
So it was a tough day of racing for the kids with some interesting results.
Race 1 Year 9 (Junior) Girls Race 3km
Race 2 Year 9 (Junior) Boys Race 3km
Race 3 U16 (Intermediate) Girls Race 3km
Race 4 U16 (Intermediate) Boys Race 4km
Race 5 U19 (Senior) Girls Race 4km
Race 6 U19 (Senior) Boys Race 6km