Landlubber a winner for once
Cyclist Callum Saunders became the first non-water-sports athlete to win the Buckley Cup in six years when he was crowned Marlborough Boys' College sportsman of the year at the annual MBC sports awards dinner last night.
Collecting the prestigious piece of silverware at Clubs of Marlborough, the year 13 student broke a five-year winning streak of the top prize for sailing and rowing since footballer Michael O'Keeffe picked it up in 2007.
Saunders had a superb year at national and international level. The highlight came in August when he and fellow MBC cyclist Quinn Karwowski were part of the New Zealand sprint team that finished fourth at the world junior track championships in Glasgow.
At the end of September, Saunders was under-20 points race champion at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Road Championships in Feilding, while he also picked up three silvers at the Youth Olympics in Australia and had success as part of the Kiwi sprint team at the Oceania Games in Adelaide.
"Hugely honoured" to win the top prize, Saunders said it was an award he had always aspired to win and seeing the previous four winners collect the cup had motivated him to work harder in his sport. He paid tribute to all the support he had received from the Marlborough community as a key part of his success.
"Definitely the support from the community. Everything they've put into me, I definitely wouldn't be anywhere near where I am now without their support so this trophy is just as much theirs as it is mine."
In a year jam-packed with top results, Saunders said the highlights were representing NZ and his victory at the NZ Secondary Schools Road Champs that earned him the David Duff Memorial Trophy, named in memory of another outstanding young Marlborough cyclist who won the points race for MBC in 1986.
"[Winning the] David Duff and racing in the school colours was pretty amazing, I don't think I've ever gone that deep before in a bike race, collapsing at the end and spewing as well. That was pretty brutal and I drove myself pretty deep for that. And then of course representing your country, that's next level."
Saunders has a scholarship to attend Waikato University next year and hopes to continue pushing towards elite selection in his final year as a junior. Beyond that, he has set the bar as high as it goes.
"Long term [my goal is] Olympics and Olympic gold ultimately, and I'll definitely be pushing for that going forward."
Three other strong candidates were up for the major individual prize, making the judges' final decision a very tough one. Captain of the successful first XV rugby team and starting member of the NZ Secondary Schools team that beat Australia, Atunaisa Moli, Karwowski and national baseball and softball rep and first XV member Tailah Love were the other finalists.
Moli and Love did not go home empty handed, though, with the first XV claiming the team of the year award and Love getting the James d'Auvergne Memorial Cup for the school's best all-round sportsman.
The first XV made history in August by lifting the prized Press Cup as Crusaders Region Secondary Schools champions. They narrowly missed out on winning the South Island title and finished the season with 13 wins, two draws and just three losses, beating out the shooting, sailing and softball teams and rowing's under-18 coxed four for top honours last night.
Love was not only a starting member of the first XV, he toured Australia with the NZ under-18 baseball team last month and is a member of the Junior Black Sox softball preparing for next year's world championships in Canada.
Born and raised in Blenheim, former Olympic and Commonwealth Games cyclist Graeme Miller was guest speaker for the evening.
A winner of two gold and two silver medals at Commonwealth Games and flag bearer for NZ at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, Miller spoke to the 300-plus-strong crowd about his long and successful career and the single-mindedness and determination he needed to succeed at the highest level.
Top Marlborough rifle shooter and longtime MBC shooting coach Malcolm Dodson was the inductee onto the Cahill Roll of Honour, which recognises people who have made a large contribution to sport at the college.
MBC SPORTS AWARDS
Sports team of the year
Finalists: Shooting team, sailing team, softball team, first XV rugby team, under 18 coxed four.
Winner: First XV rugby team.
James d'Auvergne Memorial Cup (top all-round sportsman): Tailah Love.
Sportsman of the year
Finalists: Tailah Love (softball), Atunaisa Moli (rugby), Quinn Karwowski (cycling), Callum Saunders (cycling).
Winner: Callum Saunders (cycling).
- The Marlborough Express
Who will win the Press Cup on Saturday, 2.30pm, Lansdowne Park, Blenheim?