Above: Hannah O'Connor winning her fourth NZ Schools Cross Country title in Taupo.
Favourites Sam Tanner and Hannah O’Connor retained their senior titles at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Taupo on Saturday in grand style.
O’Connor, from Sacred Heart New Plymouth played her hand early in the senior girls 4000m race, taking the lead from Aimee Ferguson of Rototuna High School ahead of the chasing bunch.
The Taranaki star athlete went on to extend her lead on the second lap as Ferguson faded to third place and Kirstie Rae (Wellington East Girls) finished strongly for second.
It was O’Connor’s fourth consecutive schools cross country title, after winning the senior title in 2017 and the 2015 and 2016 junior titles.
Tanner, from Bethlehem College in Tauranga retained his senior boys title after a tussle with two of the other favourites, Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate) and Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake Boys).
Early leader Saxon Murphy from St Andrews Christchurch headed the field on the first lap but when McIntyre applied the pressure, only Back and Tanner were able to respond.
The three ran together for more than half the race until Tanner decided it was time to move. First McIntyre and then Back fell off the pace and Tanner went on to record a 50m win over Back with another 40m back to McIntyre.
Isabella Richardson from St Cuthberts College in Auckland took out the junior girls title from Maali Kayle-Ford (Wellington East Girls College) and Maia Flint (Tauranga Girls).
The junior boys race was won by Toby Saxby (Westlake Boys) in emphatic fashion from Mac Rowe (New Plymouth Boys) and Ben Ruscoe (Westlake Boys).
Year 9 girls winner was Maia Wilkinson (Wellington East Girls), from Edie Kozyniak (St Katherine’s) and Anna Bassett (Wellington East Girls) while the top three in the Year 9 boys race were Christian De Waal (Macleans College) and Hamilton Boys High teammates Mathijs Wetzels and Joseph Morgan.
Anton Besseling was an impressive winner in the Para athlete 2000m race, from Josh Taylor and Guy Harrison.
Senior Girls 4000m
1 Hannah O'Connor (Sacred Heart Girls NP) 13:50
2 Kirstie Rae (Wellington East Girls) 14:13
3 Aimee Ferguson (Rototuna Senior High) 14:18
Junior Girls 3000m
1 Isabella Richardson (St Cuthbert's) 10:56
2 Maali Kyle-Ford (Wellington East Girls) 11:05
3 Maia Flint (Tauranga Girls) 11:08
Year 9 Girls 3000m
1 Maia Wilkinson (Wellington East Girls) 11:12
2 Edie Kozyniak (St Catherine's College) 11:18
3 Anna Bassett (Wellington East Girls) 11:25
Senior Boys 6000m
1 Samuel Tanner (Bethlehem College) 19:02
2 Liam Back (Wanganui Collegiate) 19:10
3 Murdoch McIntyre (Westlake Boys) 19:18
Junior Boys 4000m
1 Toby Saxby (Westlake Boys) 13:21
2 Mac Rowe (New Plymouth Boys) 13:41
3 Ben Ruscoe (Westlake Boys) 13:44
Year 9 Boys 3000m
1 Christian De Vaal (Macleans College) 9:57
2 Mathijs Wetzels (Hamilton Boys) 10:08
3 Joseph Morgan (Hamilton Boys) 10:13
Para Athlete Boys 2000m
1 Anton Besseling (New Plymouth Boys) 7:46
2 Josh Taylor (Wairarapa College) 9:08
3 Jacob Lowson (Papanui High) 9:30