For most of the day, the coveted McEvedy Shield seemed out of reach for Wellington College.
Defending champions St Pat's Town stretched out to an early lead, dominating the action on the track at the prestigious schoolboy athletics competition.
But as haka and chants rang out around Wellington's Newtown Park yesterday afternoon, the longtime winners crept closer, finally grabbing victory by nine points in the final races.
"To be honest, I didn't really think we quite had enough at the beginning of the day," Wellington College head coach Chris Wells said. "When I saw they were 13 points ahead [near the end], I congratulated the St Pat's coach on another win."
School co-captain Matt Szeto, 17, felt the same as he saw the Catholic school "smashing" some of his runners.
"We were down 30 points. I thought we had no chance."
But the tide turned, the scores drew level, the roar of the onlooking pupils grew louder and finally they stole ahead in the last relay races.
Fellow Wellington College co-captain Ryan Tinkle, 17, who triumphed in the shotput and discus, put the win down to the field events, which were less visible than those on the track.
"It feels pretty great. We lost the shield last year, but that makes it even better this time."
Mr Wells, in his 10th McEvedy Shield with Wellington College, said the buzz had not disappeared. "I can't describe how big this is. It's such a great event, it gets so many kids into athletics."
The shield was donated by St Pat's Town old boy Dr PF McEvedy in 1922 and up to 10 schools have competed at various times since then.
- The Dominion Post