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National Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships 2003

The Nationals were held in fine conditions at Trentham Memorial Park on Saturday 21st June.

After excellent results in the Karori relays and Wellington Championships, we were expecting very good results. Illness to key athletes in the weeks leading up to the Nationals tempered those expectations and made the outcome less sure.

The Year Nine team were a very strong age group and were expected to be strong prospects in both team events but with Daniel Robertson being ill with the flu all week the team was weakened a little. Brendon Blacklaws was a prospect for the individual title but was tripped twice in the first few hundred metres and ran an extremely courageous race to get back into contention, eventually finishing in fourth place. Auckland Grammar threw up a very strong challenge in the teams events, securing the three to count title but we managed to narrowly hold them off in the six to count to win by 152 points to 158. Danielsís illness probably made the difference in the three to count where the team finished a narrow third behind Kings College on a recount (our third placed athlete finished 20th compared to that of Kings College who finished 18th).

The winning team (in finishing order) was Brendon Blacklaws, Andrew Underwood, Sam Peters, Gareth James, Daniel Robertson and John Atkinson.

The Junior (Under 16) team were an outside prospect for a team medal but in the end narrowly missed out finishing 4th in both teams events. In Blenheim last year Terefe Ejigu was the individual winner of the Year Nine race and was once again one of the favourites to win the Junior title. His main opposition was expected to come from Matthew Mildenhall of Auckland Grammar, the second place getter the previous year. Terefe took the lead late in the final lap and had a substantial lead coming into the final few hundred metres. However, as was the case the previous year, he eased up when he thought he was safe, not realising the strong challenge which was coming from James Fisher of Auckland Grammar. Fortunately he was warned in time and managed to gather a sprint and win by a few seconds. Auckland Grammar finished 2nd and 3rd in the race but were still unable to secure either team title, both of which were won by Christchurch Boys.

The Senior team was seriously effected by the flu with Alex Olssen and Kyle Rosevear having been ill for three weeks and neither of them properly recovered. With both of them unlikely to be able to make a major contribution the three to count title in particular looked to be an unlikely prospect, with Otago Boys expected to have two athletes in the top ten. Matthew Prosser was the favourite to win the title but strong challenges were expected from several athletes. Exciting finishes might be good for the spectators but they are nerve-wracking for coaches. Matthew lost contact with the top three in the final lap but came with a strong finish, out sprinting Evan Henshaw of Northcote College to win the title in the final 30 metres. Strong runs from Lyndon McGaughran (7th) and Patrick Rosevear (25th) managed to hold off the Otago Boys challenge to secure the three to count title. With the likelihood that Alex Olssen and Kyle Rosevear were unlikely to make a contribution someone had to step up and Matthew Singleton, Axel Tie and Gudisa Dehme did so, securing the six to count title by a comfortable margin. This is the fourth consecutive year that the senior team has won both titles.