Saturday, May 23, 2020
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University athletics club outruns competition

A successful competition season and the coordination of an 80-team University Relay event saw the Victoria University of Wellington Athletics Club awarded Blues for Best Sports Club in 2019, and they hope to build on this in 2020.

Another highlight of last year was the establishment of the University’s first running scholarship, the Roger Robinson Scholarship for Student Runners, set up by Roger Robinson to support student runners studying at the University. While Professor of English and Assistant Vice-Chancellor at the University, Emeritus Professor Robinson competed as a runner internationally, and was an athletics stadium announcer, commentator and writer.

The club hopes to initiate other scholarships to attract further young runners to attend the University and participate in “the best tertiary running experience in New Zealand”, Associate Director of Sport and Recreation Karl Whalen says, adding, “there is now a strong relationship between the club and University Recreation”.

Club president Richard Owen joined the club in 1970, then rejoined the club administration team in 2012, when the club had only five members, “none of whom were students”.

“I became President three or four years ago, and in 2019 we had 54 active members and a student club captain. The club got a seventh placing in the A Grade, at the NZ National Road Relay Championships in Feilding.

“In 2012, we had no contact with University Recreation. Today we are in constant contact. We are one.”

The club and University Recreation collaborate on delivering the Hunter Relay each year, which sees teams of four run 650-metre laps around campus, with prizes for the fastest team and runner, and the best dressed team and runner.

“I enjoy the camaraderie running offers as a sport, which is what makes relay events so fun for me,” says the 2019/20 student club captain, Tommy Boyd.

“When I joined the club I liked how it accommodated to runners of all abilities—first-time marathoners and casual runners through to seasoned professionals. It’s been fascinating to get to know some of the more experienced runners in the club who have helped me a lot as I’ve become more involved in the management side of things over the last year.”

The club has been holding group runs for the past three years, departing from the Recreation Centre on Monday evening at 6.30 pm involving staff and students, and these will resume when COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“It has been rewarding to witness the development of the new student club officials in recent years,” says Karl. “The ‘older guard’ at the club have done a wonderful job in mentoring and supporting these students to stamp their own mark on the club, and their contribution has really contributed to the club’s recent success.”

In March, the Kathrine Switzer Trophy was awarded for the first time to the first female finisher in the ‘Novices’ race’, a reflection of the number of women now involved in the club.  Kathrine was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon and has been a trailblazer for women in running internationally since the 1960s, running for the club in the 1980s.

With a rich history to build on, University Recreation and the University Athletics Club are looking to the future. “We have a shared long-term vision of establishing a running hub at the University,” says Karl.