News & Updates

2 February 2024 • Track and Field

Boh’s sensible approach reaps rewards

Boh Ritchie (right) in action at the 2023 Porritt Classic is one of New Zealand’s most exciting middle-distance talents. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

Waikato-based teenager Boh Ritchie achieved a performance standard mark in the 800m for the 2024 World Athletics U20 Championships in Lima, Peru last month. We put the spotlight on the exciting middle-distance athlete who has racked up a eye-catching record over the past few seasons.

A ‘well balanced’ approach to training backed by an outstanding support team has aided the rise of Boh Ritchie into one of the country’s most promising distance runners, which she hopes may lead to two global championship appearances this year.

The versatile Hamilton City Hawks athlete, who celebrates her 17th birthday next Thursday (8 Feb), has earned a big reputation after landing a slew of national titles in 2022 and 2023 over a range of distances and surfaces.

Her form has continued to impress in 2024 with her display at the Potts Classic in Hastings earlier this month – when she wiped more than two seconds from her lifetime best to run 2:06:51 for fourth in the Sylvia Potts Memorial 800m – earning Boh an Athletics NZ Performance standard time for the World Athletics U20 Championships in Lima, Peru in August. 

Coached by Angela Russek and supported by St Peter’s School strength and conditioning coach Todd Barker as well as speed coach Sonia Waddell, a former New Zealand World U20 400m hurdles representative, Boh believes she is very fortunate to have such an impressive team in her corner.

“I have a well-balanced training schedule in which the aim is to make gradual progress across a range of distances,” she explains. “I do low mileage with the focus more than quality over quantity. We put a big emphasis on variety in training which includes strength and conditioning, which keeps me off my feet and is low impact. I swim a couple of times a week and work on exercises in the gym which develop my agility, mobility and strength and prevent injury.”

Raised in Tamahere on the outskirts of Hamilton, Boh, was bitten by the running bug after winning  St Peter’s School (in Cambridge) titles in a range of distances from 100m to 3000m as a year seven student.

Shortly after committing to the sport St Peter’s School sport convenor and track and field coach Angela Russek began coaching Boh and so began a successful relationship which has thrived over the past five years or so.

“Angela makes everything fun and makes every athlete within the St Peter’s squad feel included,” adds Boh.

Colgate Games middle-distance titles followed and in 2021 – just a week before her 14th birthday – she claimed a 3000m silver medal in the New Zealand U20 Championships. It says much about Boh’s mentality and grounded approach to the sport she refused to be carried away by the achievement – remarking of that day: “I didn’t really have any expectations. I just went out to enjoy myself and compete with the big girls.”

In 2022 she continued to harvest many more titles over a range of surfaces and distances. She struck gold medals in U20 mile, 5km road and cross country championships as well as completing the 1500m and 3000m junior girls double at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships.

Meanwhile, the St Peter’s School student collected more bling in 2023 – winning the national U20 mile, the U18 1500m and 3000m double at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships and 800m and 1500m gold medals at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Track, Field and Road Championships in Christchurch. She also secured 1500m gold at the Australian Championships in what was a stellar year.

Yet one of the highlights arrived in another event across the ditch when she made her debut global appearance for New Zealand when placing 41st in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst.

“It was an amazing year with lots of amazing experiences,” she said of 2023. “But I remember one of my favourite (experiences) was running against the very best at World Cross. It was very hot, which meant there was a fine line between pushing myself to the limit but making sure my body did not shut down so I could finish the race.”

The race in Bathurst provided the motivation for winning selection for the 2024 World U20 Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in March. And after achieving the performance standard over 5000m at the Daikin Night of 5s in December – where she ran a PB of 17:13.23 – Boh later secured selection for the event on 30 March.

“I competed in pretty horrible conditions at the last World Cross, so I really wanted to go to another one,” she explains. “I was pleased to have secured the qualification time and I’m really looking forward to seeing how I go in what will be very different weather.”

Yet her global ambitions for 2024 do not begin and end in Serbia. With the World Athletics U20 Championships taking place in Lima this too has acted as a huge carrot and for Boh to have already achieve the Performance Standard time of 800m is a huge boost. 

“Competing at World U20 is one of my main goals for the years, but I’m obviously awaiting selection,” she says. “I hope to also get the performance standard for the 1500m (which sits at 4:25.00) at some point.”

Making such a big improvement in the 800m certainly acts as a positive indicator for the rest of the season and she believes working hard on her speed – combining her training session between the grass track at St Peter School and occasional visits to the all-weather track in Tauranga while the track at Porritt Stadium has been re-laid – has paid dividends.

“My sprint coach Sonia has really helped with my block starts and this has also played a part in helping get my 800m time down,” she adds.

With the goals for the remainder of the domestic season to perform “consistently” and continue to “enjoy the sport” Boh adopts a simple but effective approach to the sport.

Believing her strengths in the sport are her speed, mental resilience augmented by her support network, she can look forward with optimism to the future.

Long term she has ambitions to represent her country at the Olympic Games and senior World Championships, so what does the teenager most love about running?

“I just love that feeling of being in the moment when that gun goes off. In that moment everything just disappears.”