Louise Brabyn shows her prowess as one of Whanganui's top middle-distance runners
Louise Brabyn claiming her bronze at the New Zealand Schools Cross Country in Hāwera last year. Louise Brabyn claiming her bronze at the New Zealand Schools Cross Country in Hāwera last year. Louise Brabyn demonstrated why she was awarded the Toby Bowyer Trophy as Whanganui's leading middle-distance runner with an emphatic senior girls title at the Whanganui Secondary Schools Cross Country at Victoria Park on Tuesday. The trophy was presented to Athletics Wanganui by the late Kevin Ross, Whanganui's leading distance runner of the late 1960s and early 70s. Competitor representative, coach, official, selector, administrator, all of these positions were part of Bowyer's outstanding service to athletics. I have seen a photograph of Bowyer's team featuring 15 athletes all of whom held club, provincial or national titles including Kevin Ross who had been a member of the New Zealand world record-breaking 4 x 1-mile team. I met Toby Bowyer just a few weeks after arriving in New Zealand back in 1973 when he came to my home.
He outlined what the club offered with the hope that the club would interest and benefit Whanganui Collegiate School athletes. Both Toby Bowyer and Kevin Ross would have been impressed with 16-year-old Brabyn and with her potential. With New Zealand Schools Track and Field Championships cancelled in December 2021 Brabyn had to wait until this summer. At the New Zealand Championships in March, she finished third in the under-18 3000m. She started the 2000m steeplechase as favourite and quickly showed why by controlling the race throughout to win just a few seconds outside of her top-ranked New Zealand performance. The Whanganui Schools individual cross country at Victoria Park were held a week after the successful relays at Tawhero. Brabyn held off the early challenges of teammate Amy McHardy to win by 27 seconds in her first 4000m cross country and should be pleased with her time of 14 minutes and 5 seconds only just shy of her 14-minute target on the Victoria Park course chosen because it is similar in nature to Saxton Fields, the venue for this year's New Zealand Schools in Nelson.
First across the line in the combined race was Greta Darke to take the junior title over 3000m just metres ahead of Whanganui Collegiate School teammate Hannah Byam who took the Year 9 title (also over 3000m). Grace Fannin was second in the Year 9 grade (Girls College) and Zoe Anderson was third (Cullinane). Daniel Sinclair impressed in the senior boys by winning the senior boys by 14 seconds from his Whanganui Collegiate training partner Toby Caro with his cousin James Hercus in third. Sinclair's brother Matthew won the junior under-16 from Charlie Anderson (Cullinane) and Thomas Fitzgerald (Collegiate). There is some real strength developing in middle-distance running and it is clear that Brabyn will have added competition next year if she is to retain the Toby Bowyer in her final year at school. Previous winners of the Toby Bowyer trophy, first presented in 2017, include Christian Conder who went on to gain a USA Track scholarship to Florida and Liam Back who is currently at Providence Rhode Island where he has just become New Zealand's latest sub-4-minute miler (also the third from Whanganui Collegiate School) at just 20 years old. Brabyn follows some illustrious former winners which should inspire this promising athlete.
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