Wellington College are shooting for a record five consecutive McEvedy Shield athletics titles at Newtown Park today. The McEvedy Shield was donated in 1922 by Dr P F McEvedy, an old boy of St Pat's Town, who went on to represent England in rugby and wanted to promote the spirit of athletic competition.
The captain of Wellington College's McEvedy team, Ilya Demeshev, says he's feeling the pressure of trying to lead the school to a historic fifth straight title.
Demeshev, 17, will run the 100 metres, 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay – and knows that Wellington College are the hunted.
"There's obviously a bit of added pressure going for five in a row, but I'm really looking forward to it because we've all prepared really well," Demeshev said.
"Obviously there'll be strong challenges from all the other schools, but hopefully we'll just rise to it, and above it, and we'll win it."
Wellington College are expecting dominant performances from youngsters Ryan Tinkle and Otto Lupo, and Demeshev said the school's support base gave it an advantage.
"The whole school really gets into it and it gets pretty loud, and you definitely feel, when you have 1500 boys behind you, that you can go all the way and do what's best for your school."
Chris Wells, head of the college's McEvedy team, is on his toes, aware that rival schools have lifted their game.
"It'll be very tight," he said. "There's threats from St Pat's Town and Rongotai, and Silverstream have got some individual athletes who are at the top of their game and will win plenty of titles as well, so it'll make it a very tight McEvedy, I think."
Wells said Tinkle and Lupo could be counted on for large points hauls, but it was the "surprise packets" who made the event such a hit.
"That's what makes it so exciting, really, because there are kids that have not competed before, and that's what makes the whole thing such an exciting event."
ST PAT'S TOWN
St Pat's Town believe they have their best McEvedy team in eight years and are ready to give Wellington College a run for their money.
Head of the college's athletics programme, Leigh Lidstone, said no stone had been left unturned in this year's preparation.
"We've certainly got our strongest team and the students have done the most work they've done for the last eight years," he said. "We basically haven't got anyone in our school that's on the sidelines that is a top sportsperson."
Lidstone said the only weak area was the senior team.
"Whilst they're 100 per cent training their hardest, you still need that firepower there. But if everyone produces their best, we're in with a chance, which is quite exciting."
St Pat's Town have been training three times a week and had put in extra work during the Christmas break, but Lidstone stopped short of claiming the favourites tag.
"I don't think we're favourites, but we've certainly got a great work ethic now, and the team's going to be really determined."
Stars include Tana Tau, running in the under-14 100 metres and 200m, and Luke Donaldson, in the under-14 1500m and 3000m.
Lidstone said both would be favourites to win their events, and Tauasosi Tuamavave and Matt Proctor were frontrunners in the hurdles.
In the senior 100m and 200m, John Brooks will go head to head with Rongotai gun Saravee Sos.
"That's going to be an exciting race," Lidstone said.
Saravee Sos looms as Rongotai College's McEvedy spearhead, and Julian Savea is the school's inspiration.
Rongotai's athletics convener, Jeff King, said Sos, New Zealand's fifth-fastest under-16 sprinter, had been breaking 11 seconds in training for the 100 metres.
"We clocked him at 10.8 hand-timed, so that's pretty quick, and we're hoping that'll be enough to edge out John Brooks, from St Pat's Town," King said.
"[Brooks] did very well last year, but Saravee's worked really hard, so we're hoping that if he can repeat it on the day, I think that should be enough to get him the senior 100m title."
Sos was injured for last year's McEvedy, and King said the buildup had been more professional this time.
"With the limited depth that we have we have to be really careful and look after our top performers," he said. "The boys are more aware of the consequences of those sorts of injuries and how much of an impact they can have on the whole thing."
Savea, a Hurricanes under-18s and New Zealand secondary schools rugby wing, has given up sprints to focus on the throwing and jumping events.
"He's still pretty sharp and for so long he was the bar, he raised the bar, and everyone looked up to him, but now people have surpassed him in lots of ways because he's got a lot of commitment to rugby, but he's still an inspiration," King said.
"He's been throwing over 50m in the discus at trainings and the record's 52.80, so he's really keen to try and roll that one," King said. "That record's held by an old Rongotai boy, Fale Seve, so that's his big focus."
ST PAT'S SILVERSTREAM
Corey Casey is set to clean up in senior middle- distance events, but Silverstream are unlikely to trouble the three city schools for overall honours.
Casey, Silverstream's captain, will be exhausted by the end of the day, after running the 400 metres, 800m, 1500m and possibly the relay.
He said it was a big honour to captain the school.
"I'm pretty privileged to do that. I've been waiting for it since third form, so it's been a big goal for me," Casey said. "I've got four events, so I might go out and break some records. It just depends on how I feel on the day.
"The 800m and 1500m I'm pretty confident of winning, but 400m should be a challenge, just because I don't specialise in it, but I'll try and go out and win that."
The 17-year-old was eagerly awaiting the buzz of the crowd.
"The atmosphere is pretty awesome. The crowd going wild, coming down the home straight and hearing the school cheering for you just gives you that big boost."
Casey aside, Silverstream's strength lies in the senior boys' javelin, with Blake Thompson and Kyle Hitchman expected to dominate.
"I don't think we've got as strong a team as we've had in the last two years, but I think we're still capable of a few upsets in a few events," athletics coach Hugh Steel said.
"They're probably our stars . . . our senior team in the field and in middle distance is very good. But apart from that, we're going to be really struggling, to tell you the truth."
- The Dominion Post
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