Dedicated couple still helping out 40 years on
Jan Cockeram has seen big names like Bernice Mene, Jeff Wilson, Sonny Bill Williams, Nick Willis and Jacko Gill come through the Colgate Games and she is in no doubt there will be a few more stars coming through the ranks.
Nelson's Cockeram and her husband, Brian, have been involved in athletics for more than 40 years.
That tradition continued after moving to Nelson 11 years ago and, for the last two years, Jan has been president of the New Zealand Children's Athletics Association.
In 2012 she was able to oversee the South Island Colgate Games in Nelson. The event returned to Nelson for the first time since 2007, on a five-year cycle.
Early next year, the 35th annual North Island Colgate Games will take place in Inglewood, Taranaki, on January 4-6, while the southern equivalent is scheduled for Invercargill on January 11-13.
The combined events are set to attract 2200 children.
The South Island Colgate Games will have 800 athletes from 52 clubs take to the track and the field.
Entries span from Invercargill to Takaka, with two overseas ones received. The Tasman region will send six children from the Nelson club, 13 from Richmond and six from Marlborough, while there are seven athletes entered from Golden Bay.
Each year about 250 volunteers travel to the games' two locations, including internationally accredited officials, and it seems Jan has come through almost every level of volunteering.
The Cockerams have continued their involvement, progressing from competition where Jan was involved in shot put and discus, into administration and officiating.
Two of their three sons also took up athletics and Jan said their summer holidays always involved a trip to the Colgate Games, wherever they were being held.
She began volunteering as a starter in 1991 and, for several years, either Jan or Brian started every race. She has also been a New Zealand team manager, taking groups of Kiwi athletes to the Pacific School Games in Australia.
Jan said there was one important aspect that kept her involved every year.
"It's the kids," she said. "It's the involvement with the children and seeing them out there participating and competing, and the joy you see on their faces.
"Athletics is in my blood and my husband's too.
"We have been involved in athletics for over 40 years, it's just something that we have done all our lives."
She said the Colgate Games were an important part of creating champions and sporting traditions in New Zealand.
"They have been around for 35 years, now we are having third generations becoming involved.
"Athletics is a foundation sport for a lot of sports in New Zealand, the movement skills are important for almost every other sport.
"The Colgate Games have been a formative part of the careers of some of our most celebrated athletes."
She believes there is a lot of young talent coming through the junior system, and next month's championships will be no different.
There may even be someone who will top the exploits of one of Jan's favourites from many years ago, dual international Jeff "Goldie" Wilson.
The Colgate Games are for children aged 7-14. They are a non-selected meeting with a focus on participation, with competitive finals only for ages 10-14.
- © Fairfax NZ News