Hawks fly high for the Commonwealth Games
Five Hamilton Hawks club members are in the New Zealand track and field team for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games - a reflection of just how strong the club is at present.
Hawks committee member and coach Criss Strange said the club had rebuilt itself back to the levels of the halcyon days of the 1970s when it reigned supreme in New Zealand athletics.
That is reflected in the fact club members Stuart Farquhar (javelin), Julia Ratcliffe (hammer), Jake Robertson (10,000m), Zane Robertson (1500m) and Kristie Baillie (women's 4x400m relay) are all in Britain preparing for next week's Glasgow Games.
Joining them is another Hawks member and throwing coach Debbie Strange, wife of Criss and coach of Farquhar.
"We've got around 130 senior track and field members and a very similar number in the cross country/harriers section," Strange said.
The club joins with the Tauranga club in contributing heavily to a dominant Waikato-Bay of Plenty provincial team at both senior and schools levels.
Strange said the club worked closely with the schools where a number of talented young athletes were emerging, and each October and November invited them along to their club nights to help their buildup to the December schools nationals.
"In November we had eight heats of the 100m on a Wednesday club night, which is incredible.
"We've also introduced back into the club some fun elements and social elements into the club, as well, but the real secret is the coaches.
"We've got actually got a really good group of coaches and that's what the kids need."
North Shore Bays club has one more representative at Glasgow than Hawks with six, but Athletics New Zealand communications manager Brett Addison pointed out three of those were imports from Tauranga, Rotorua and Dunedin.
Waikato also has United States-based Te Awamutu relay sprinter Katherine Camp in the Games team, while Strange said both hurdler Cameron French and 5000m runner Camille Buscomb had come very close to qualifying to boost the Hawks' representation.
Meanwhile, Strange said several of the Hawks athletes in the team were showing strong form ahead of the games, including US-based hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe, who is currently ranked No 1 in the US, having been coached long distance by her father in Hamilton since her coach left Princeton University. Dave Ratcliffe is now in Britain with his daughter helping her prepare for Glasgow.
Most of the Kiwi team are currently based at a camp in Cardiff but Farquhar and the relay squad are competing in Loughborough, England, tonight with the four sprinters to actually compete in the heats to be chosen from their 400m times.
Zane Robertson has been in superb pre-games form, breaking Peter Snell's mile personal best to become the all-time fourth fastest Kiwi over the distance, while also setting a 3000m personal best.
His twin brother, Jake, is under an injury cloud and might not compete in Glasgow.