News & Updates

18 June 2024 • Community

Maunder’s reflect on life of athletics service

To mark National Volunteer Week – we put the spotlight on husband and wife combination Peter and Sylvia Maunder, who have contributed as dedicated athletics administrators and officials for more than 50 years.

Peter and Sylvia Maunder are far too modest to say it, but the Wairarapa-based couple represent the very heartbeat of our sport.

Since the 1970s the pair have been tirelessly involved in athletics in a host of capacities all with the purpose of ensuring the sport runs smoothly and the athletes can best achieve their goals.

Their attentive and exhaustive work as athletics administrators and officials have earned the husband and wife duo NZ Merit Awards and they have also been rewarded by watching three generations of Maunders fully embrace the sport. However, after an involvement spanning five decades the pair are opting to significantly downscale their involvement in athletics with the pair finally having time to reflect on their time in the sport.

“Looking back on our time in athletics it has not been about what the sport has given us, but what it has given our kids and we’ve just enjoyed watching them as both parents and grandparents,” says Sylvia, 74.

“Our first born, Simon, become a sub-four-minute miler and my eldest daughter Frith competed in the long jump for New Zealand at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Our other daughter, Maria, was also a very good athlete while my grandson Cam Maunder (the 2022 national U20 cross country silver medallist) has also been involved, although he now competes as a triathlete.”

Peter and Sylvia’s athletics journey began at school. Sylvia, who grew up in Christchurch, a keen sprinter/jumper but as was in the same school year at Avonside Girls’ High School as Barbara Paulsen – later Beable – she often had to play second fiddle to Barbara, who would later win the 1970 Commonwealth Games shot put silver medal. “She beat me soundly in everything to do with athletics,” recalls Sylvia.

Peter, who grew up in Levin, was an endurance runner. He stepped his involvement while studying surveying in Dunedin joining the Otago University Harrier Club before later relocating to Wellington where he competed for Wellington Scottish Harriers as “a good B team runner.”

It was in the capital where the pair first met, and they married in 1969 yet his journey into administration happened suddenly as the fully qualified surveyor was made Honorary Surveyor for the Wellington Centre in 1975 – a role he fulfilled for the next 30 years. Over the past 49 years he has measured road race courses and in 2010 became an AIMS B Grade Course Measurer.

“I think like many people who become administrators, I must have got my arm twisted to get involved,” says Peter, 80. “But I have not regretted it for a second.”

Sylvia’s journey into the voluntary side of athletics began a little later when in the early 1980s their three children joined Karori Athletics Club. Like Peter, Sylvia was never satisfied to sit back as a spectator and so began her officiating journey.

“We started officiating at our Wednesday club nights and our family summer holidays were spent camping and always with the children competing at Colgate Games,” she adds.

Always keen to help and make a difference, through the 1980s and 1990s the pair really stepped up their multiple voluntary roles within the sport.

Peter served on the Karori Athletics Club Committee and the Wellington Junior Committee, where he was chair for four years. As their children progressed into senior athletics Peter and Sylvia became a part of the Wellington Centre Track & Field Committee – the former as chair and the latter as secretary. The pair tirelessly continued to officiate each weekend at Newtown Park throughout the track season with Sylvia a finish line recorder at the Wellington venue for 13 years.

Peter says: “Just because you are an administrator it doesn’t get off the hook from being an official each weekend. We really enjoyed both roles and if you have a natural bent for either or both I’d recommend it because of the friendships we have formed along the way.”

Their thirst for more involvement in the world of athletics extended to Peter and Sylvia becoming National Technical Officials (NTO) while Sylvia used her skills as part of Local Organising Committees for New Zealand Track & Field Championships and International Track Series meets – the forerunner to the current Classic series.

Having officiated for 30 years at New Zealand Track & Field Championships and a range of other local, national and regional events and life members of Athletics Wellington since 2004, the Maunders took a step back from their full throttle involvement in the sport after moving to Carterton in the Wairarapa in 2010. While no longer officiating every week at Newtown Park, the pair were still regular faces at nationals as well as many of the Classic series events.

However, following the conclusion of the 2023-24 season the pair – who were awarded Athletics NZ Merit Awards around ten years ago – have decided to further scale back their involvement in the sport.

Sylvia said: “It has got to the point where the travel is becoming increasingly tough and as an animal lover with a dog and cat, we just want to spend a lot more time at home.”

While lost to the bigger meets, the Maunder’s are still happy to officiate at local meets in Masterton while Peter – who has only just retired as a surveyor – will continue to maintain his involvement in course measuring.

The pair have a treasure trove of wonderful memories in the sport to draw upon with Peter citing James Preston’s magnificent 1:44.87 victory in the men’s 800m at the 2024 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships as a recent highlight.

So, what will the pair miss about the sport now the couple are reigning back on their involvement?

“The camaraderie of the officials,” said Sylvia. “It is always great meeting up and looking back on events we’ve worked at together from 10, 15, 20 years ago.

For Peter- who served as Athletics NZ President in 2016-17 – he would encourage others to work as a volunteer in the sport.

“It is the friendships you develop along the way,” he adds. “I enjoyed being involved for me it was better than being a spectator for four hours – that has never really appealed.”

Before Sylvia chipped in: “The social aspect was the best thing for us. We are not big party people, or naturally outgoing but the social aspect kept us going. The sport has kept us young.”