Mia’s smashing run gives coach his 300th medal

Mia Cain-Townley stood cold, muddy, and wet in the finish chute after her 3km Year 9 race at Saturday’s (June 19) race at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Hawera. The only person other than herself and her family as overjoyed with her silver medal performance was her coach, who stood along the finish area as cold, muddy, and wet as his athlete.

The medal from the Waimea College athlete marked the 300th national medal earned by the athletes of Greg Lautenslager, the National Academy of Distance Running coach. This is inclusive of individual and team New Zealand Secondary Schools and Athletics New Zealand medals his athletes have received in cross country, athletics,road racing, and mountain running. Chris Harte won the first medal in the 2000m steeplechase at the 2002 New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics Championships.

Mia slithered through the mud and puddles of the undulating layout at the A&P Showgrounds, moving into medal contention halfway into the race. Mia pulled into second just before a sharp downhill and entered the stadium turf two metres ahead of Napier’s Sophie Dunnett-Welch, whom she easily held off the last 200m. Mia finished in 11:21, 12 seconds behind winner Boh Ritchie of St. Peter’s School and five seconds faster than the winner of the junior girls race.

Mia’s run sparked a glorious day for Academy runners in the most un-glorious of conditions. Hogan Ward of Nelson College followed with a 10th place finish in the Year 9 Boys 3km race. Shinaye Toms of Nayland College placed 12th in the junior girls 3km – ahead of Waimea College runners Amelia Clark (19th), Brooke Bowen (39th), Heidi Stephens 45th. Waimea College finished fourth in the 3-person team race and, adding Mia and Grace Ritchie, took sixth the next day in the 5 x 2km relay race.

Kate Southwick and Sophie Thomas from Nelson College for Girls finished 76th and 81st, respectively, in the senior girls 4km race.

Josh Gill capped off the chilly afternoon with a ninth-place finish in the senior boys 6km. He was the first Nelson College runner to finish in the top 10 since Mike Lowe’s fourth place finish in 2013. Josh Fitzgerald of Motueka High School placed 12th, followed by Nelson College runners Fenlon Bayley in 39th and Henry Grab in 58th. Nelson College placed seventh in the 3-person team competition.

Waimea’s Matt Bowen fell at the start but worked his way through the 181-man field for 51st place.

Gill, Fitzgerald, Bayley, Bowen, and Grab will represent Tasman in the M18 race at the Athletics New Zealand Cross Country Championships in Dunedin on August 7.