News & Updates

11 April 2022 • General

Innovative club night proves just the ticket

(Photo: Auckland City Athletics Club)

Offering a perfect illustration of a club listening to its members and the wider athletics community the Auckland City Athletics race nights have provided a welcome addition to the summer track calendar.

The three meets – held in December, February and March – offered track athletes the opportunity for quality competition under lights at the atmospheric Mt Smart Stadium, a recipe which led to some top-class performances and a flurry of PB’s.

ACA Club President Simon Yarrow said of the race nights: “The concept was brought to us by the athletes. Covid had meant a lot of interruptions to the event calendar, and the idea for the meets came about when the athletes came to us and asked, ‘can you put on a meet for us?’ We then went to the different clubs, athletes and coaches and took specific requests for events. We have tried to keep the meets short and sharp and about the same length as a football or rugby match. We run the club nights from high school age and upwards to limit the number of events on the programme but within that it gave us the flexibility to bring newer events into the programmes such as mixed gender race.”

The first club night – which took place pre-Christmas – attracted around 60 athletes with entries climbing to 80 for race night two and the maximum 100 (because of Covid restrictions) for the third and final club night for the season in March.

Yet in another example of the club listening to the needs of the athletics community after the first meet started at 7pm, Simon and his team opted to push the meet back by an hour or so to ensure race nights two and three would be under floodlights.

“Someone asked if we had thought about starting the event a bit light under the lights. We thought it was a good idea because racing under the lights could create a better atmosphere and it could help the athletes achieve faster times.”

Race night two delivered with a high-class women’s 800m, which witnessed the fastest time in New Zealand up until that point for the event when Holly Manning dropped a 2:04.41 time and Macey Hilton shattered her PB to bank a World U20 Athletics NZ Performance Standard time of 2:06.87.

In the most recent race night in March, Laura Nagel posted a 1500m mark and personal best of 4:14.31 which still sits top of the 2022 New Zealand rankings. Yet it is not only the elite performers who have benefited from the meet with Simon saying more than 30 PB’s were set on race night three.

“I think because the meets are not a championship event, nobody is wanting to save a bit of a gas for later in the race,” he explains. “Everyone just goes out there with a great attitude wanting to run fast.”

 “We see that the athletes themselves are really wanting to help each other, so Laura Nagel helped pace Macey Hilton in the 800m at the race night two and then Macey helped pace Laura in the 1500m in race night three.”

Optimistic of a less disrupted season in 2022-23, Simon and the club are looking to run four ACA race nights next season with the possibility of scheduling a meet a couple of weeks in advance of the Auckland Secondary Schools to provide an additional competitive opportunity.

The three previous club nights have seen races over 100, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3000m 10,000m and 400m hurdles, however, Simon has not ruled out introducing relays or other events to meet demand.

“I’m proud of the fact that we responded and listened to the needs of athletes, coaches and clubs to help deliver what they wanted,” he explains. “We didn’t go in with too many pre-conceived ideas but I’m pleased everyone at the club and the officials picked up the baton and ran with it.”