News & Updates

8 October 2021 • Community

A trio of new clubs set for summer season

(Photo: South Otago AC)

Despite the challenges of the global pandemic we focus on one brand new club and two revived clubs who will be open for business during the forthcoming summer athletics season. Steve Landells finds out more.

Rangitikei AC

If ever a new club best illustrates the power of collaboration it is Rangitikei AC – which is set to burst out of the starting blocks with its inaugural club night on Monday October 18. 

The genesis of the club based in the small town of Marton – approximately halfway between Whanganui and Palmerston North – can be traced back to when Feilding Athletics President Mark Searle ran some free community sessions for kids aged three to 13.

Eager to build on this initial enthusiasm, Mark then posed the question of starting a new club. Receiving many positive responses further momentum was generated when Emily Rayner, the Director of Sport at Rangitikei College, got on board to provide more opportunities for college age student in the area.

Bill Twiss, the current Rangitikei Athletics Club President and a member of Feilding Moa Harriers, said: “We saw this as a big opportunity to start a new club because there is a big gap in distance from here to either Palmerston North or Whanganui. In the past there used to be a Marton AC but we decided to go for the Rangitikei club name to draw upon a much larger community of people from the Rangitikei district which also includes Hunterville, Taihape and Bulls.” 

The club will be based out of Rangitikei College using their 400m grass track as well as marked throws circles, long jump pit and high jump pads with Sport Whanganui offering their support with all the necessary throws implements.  

The road has not been without its challenge for Bill and his committee. The financial background to the club took time to set in place while organising appropriate coaching has not been straight-forward. 

But thanks to support from various organisations – including Athletics New Zealand – a week on Monday Rangitikei AC, which caters predominantly for those aged 3 to 19, is set for its historic first club night. 

“It’s really important we can support the local kids with an athletics club because when working with the 60 or so kids out of Rangitikei College during those informal sessions I realised we have a lot of natural talent to work with,” explains Bill.  

“Whether they stay with athletics over time or move on to other sports it is important they try athletics because it is the base for everything,” adds Bill, who for many years was a member of Wellington Scottish.  

“It teaches you how to run, throw and jump. It is exciting to fill that athletics gap and to be able to encourage and develop this group of kids.” 

Takaka Athletics Club

After several years without a club the Golden Bay area of Tasman this summer will celebrate the revival of Takaka Athletics Club.

The club operated for just over a decade before falling dormant in 2017 – however club secretary Maree Fleming says after an enthusiastic parent approached her and receiving positive feedback from the local community the time was right to re-start the club.

“It was important that kids in the area get the opportunity to join an athletics club,” explains Maree, who formerly served as club secretary after her three children went through the club in its previous existence.

“For several years the nearest club to here was Motueka Athletics – a one hour and ten-minute drive from here so it was important to meet that need of a more local club.

“Athletics is so important for kids because they learn the fundamental movement skills.”

The road to re-starting the club has faced its challenges. Their regular home at Golden Bay High School is currently undergoing significant renovations. The long jump pit has gone and they are limited to a 100m straight track.

However, in support the adjacent Takaka Primary School are planning to mark an oval track while a volleyball court at Golden Bay High School will be used for the long jump pit.

The club also has issues storing the high jump mat but are working on solutions and given good governance support from Athletics NZ on September 20 – the Takaka Athletics Club plans to launch its first club night for four years.

Happy with their coaching team and hopeful of 50 plus kids in attendance, Maree is looking forward that the local kids in the area will get to experience track and field in a club environment.

“With our support it gives the children a chance to do running, jumping or throwing as a summer sport.”

South Otago AC

After a five-year hiatus parent power has helped revive South Otago AC with the launch of its first club night of the season on November 2.

Based in Balclutha the club was active from the 1960s until 2016 when a lack of parental support led to its demise.

However, after hearing of a resurgence of interest from parents to re-start the club, Craig Gordon of the Sport Otago Regional Sport Trust came on board to offer his support.

While Craig has played an important role, he acknowledges it has been a team effort with Athletics NZ and Athletics Otago contributing vital support and of course the volunteer parents – led by Rachael Landreth – driving the revival of the club.

Based out of South Otago High School the club will have access to a 400m track and field event facilities and hopes to attract kids from not only Balclutha but as far west as Clinton, south in Owaka and as north in Waihola.

One of the first challenges is upskilling the parents and on October 19 a Run Jump Throw coaching course has been organised followed seven days later by a coaching course for parents led by Athletics NZ distance programme coach Maria Hassan.

The following week the club will organise their first club night of the summer at South Otago High School.

With the club targeting kids aged five to 11 plus some older children, Craig is hopeful around 30 kids will be involved this summer and he is delighted they will be given the chance to experience athletics in a club environment.

“It is really important because the crossover of those fundamental skills learned in athletics to other sports is massive,” explains Craig. “It also gives the chance to lay down that groundwork for those who want more competitive opportunities at Dunedin but most of all it is great for the community. The club is what the community wants and it’s the parents who are driving this project.”