Rural runners going places
At Northern Southland College they are pretty proud of their cross-country stars – and with good reason.
At the most recent Southland secondary schools championships in Te Anau, they cleaned up the event, with three runners claiming boys' titles.
Liam Turner won the under-13 race, while Jack Beaumont won the under-15 race and Anton Fitzgerald the under-17 section.
For a small school in rural Southland to win three titles at provincial level is a memorable feat, but the fleet-footed trio are taking it in their stride.
Jack, 15, can be seen training around the streets of Lumsden most nights.
He also likes running around the river and the track at Northern Southland College and last year finished runner-up at the New Zealand championships in the year 9 section.
While he had to forgo the most recent nationals for his year, there's little doubt that there is still plenty to come.
"I've been running since I was a little kid. My parents used to take me for walks and the other kids would be getting piggy-back rides and I'd walk the whole way," he said. "I started winning my primary school cross-countries and then I won the Southland primary schools cross-country, and that was before I had a trainer."
Jack, a member of the Winton club, has been taken under the wing of Southland coach of the year Lance Smith and said the benefits had been obvious.
"It definitely helps. Better technique has helped a lot and the way I train – I used to just to the same things and now it's mixed up with different types of runs during the week."
Jack is also a talented runner on the track – good enough to finish runner-up in the under-15 age group at the South Island championships in his favoured 3000-metre event – but his favourite running setting is probably the bush.
Running has allowed him to travel around New Zealand, meet few friends and stay fit, and one day it could, hopefully, enable him to represent New Zealand.
Smith described Jack as a "prodigious" talent more than capable of following in the footsteps of Southlanders such as Greer Alsop or Glen Ballam, who represented New Zealand at a young age.
Smith said Jack had shown his poten-tial at a handicap race in Gore recently when he came through to pip Ricky Gutsell – even at 50 still this province's best long-distance runner – for the fastest time.
Gutsell had tripped over a hay bale late in the race and took about 10 seconds to recover, but the fact Jack was competitive at 15 showed how much ability he had, Smith said.
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