Winds gusting so hard a metal pole vault container flew over an infield fence. Rain pelting so furiously that puddles formed on the track within seconds. Lightning striking so loud that hotel guests were awoken in the night.
That is the atmosphere in which athletes competed at the weekend’s New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics Championships in Wellington.
Newtown Park was not the place to run fast times, but that didn’t stop the National Academy of Distance Running athletes from performing at their best.
Competing in calmer conditions – winds only gusted to 40km per hour – on Friday’s opening day, Matt Bowen ran a personal best 9:25.38 for eighth place in the junior boys 3,000m. Josh Gill finished 18th in 9:59.38. Also on Friday Heidi Stephens advanced to the junior girls 800m semifinals with a 2:32.69 for fourth in her heat, and Jacob Brooks ran 2:06.18 to qualify for the junior boys semifinals.
Jacob Neal ran 4:27.69 in Saturday’s junior boys 1,500m heats and was 14th in Sunday’s finals. Fenlon Bayley and Oliver McCormack each ran 4:40 in their junior heats for top eight finishes in non-qualifying efforts.
Lucy Martin finished a qualifying sixth in her junior girls 1,500m in 5:07.19 and was 10th in the finals. Lucy Harman ran 5:04 in her senior girls 1,500m and missed the finals by a half-second.
George Varney placed third in his senior boys 1,500m heat and was 10th in the finals. Fletcher Pickworth overcame his disappointment of missing the 1,500m finals, by coming from far behind on the anchor leg of the senior mixed relay to within 3/100ths of a second of third place.
The lightning took care of the Academy’s best chance for medals as the Road Race was cancelled early Sunday morning.
Full results can be found at nzssaa.org.nz.