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National Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships

The National Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships were held in Blenheim in very cold conditions. The course although basically flat with a few stop banks to negotiate proved very difficult for those who were caught in the bunch at the beginning. The sharp turns and changes of pace going up and down the banks made it difficult for some athletes to maintain a rhythm.

The Wellington College team was well prepared and reasonably expected to achieve considerable success. Illness which struck the Under 16 team effected this expectation considerably. Adam Cahill, who had been in excellent form, was ill all week and although he ran was well below par. Sam Herrick was forced to withdraw from the team the night before departure. When illness caused the withdrawal of Patrick Rosevear (last year’s champion) on the morning of the race the chances of winning the three man title effectively disappeared and the prospects in the six man team were seriously effected. The depth of the squad did mean that the team was able to produce a creditable second placing with the six man team.

The senior team were strong favourites to retain their National titles and this proved to be the case. Matthew Prosser was one of three favourites to win the individual title. On the day the other two athletes were too strong for him and he had to settle for third placing which he snatched on the line with a final sprint. The outstanding performance was the fifth placing of Lyndon McGaughran in a very competitive field. A strong finish from Matthew Curran who passed three Auckland Grammar athletes in the final 400 metres secured the three man title and solid performances from Peter Sygrove and Alex Olssen ensured the team retained the six man title. Given that four of the top six athletes are returning to school next year, the prospect of retaining these titles for a third year is very promising.

The individual performance of the Nationals was that of Terefe Ejigu in the Year Nine grade. Terefe ran an excellent race, following the race plan to perfection, to win the individual title from a tall, strong Auckland Grammar athlete. Terefe sat behind the Auckland Grammar athlete for the first two kilometres of the three kilometre course and kicked strongly up the final stop bank to gain a twenty metre lead. He eased up a little in the final 400 metres allowing his opponent to mount a challenge but when he saw the threat he was easily able to increase his pace to win by two seconds. This is Terefe’s first year racing and, with experience, he has the prospect of developing into an outstanding athlete. The remainder of the team were trapped in the large field and found it difficult to work their way through the field. They finished fourth in the six man event but once again were missing one of their top athletes with illness.