Athletics: Columba 4 x 100 team right on the baton

Columba College relay runners (from left) Analise Cowie, Laura Saville, Zoey Flockton and Maddy...
Columba College relay runners (from left) Analise Cowie, Laura Saville, Zoey Flockton and Maddy Spence train at the Caledonian Ground. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Queenstown's Laura Saville is the only survivor of the Columba College relay team that won the national schools gold medal in Wellington last year.

Columba College does not have the fastest sprinters but has concentrated on technique and baton-changing in a bid to retain the senior 4 x 100m title.

There will be more than 1300 athletes competing at the New Zealand secondary schools athletics championships at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin from December 7 to 9.

The Columba team of Saville, Analise Cowie, Zoey Flockton and Maddy Spence has already claimed the Otago and Otago-Southland secondary schools titles this year.

The team is coached by sports co-ordinator Shona Harvey, who was a talented sprinter in her youth and represented Otago.

"We are using the relay to build enthusiasm and motivation for athletics," Harvey told the Otago Daily Times.

"We are trying to encourage girls to participate in athletics and are using the team factor for that."

A winning culture has been developed in the school since the girls relay team first made the final at the New Zealand secondary schools championships in 2007.

"The girls believe in themselves and enjoy what they are doing," Harvey said. "At secondary school level, sport is all about enjoyment.

"We have now built up a momentum, with girls wanting to get into the relay team.

Athletics is usually about individual performances but the relay brings in the team environment."

Over the past six weeks the team has trained five days a week for the relay. It has included drills in the school gymnasium, technique work and most important of all has been the emphasis placed on baton-changing.

The elite relay team comes from different parts of Otago.

Cowie is from Hampden, Saville from Queenstown, and Flockton and Spence from Dunedin. Spence shifted back to Dunedin from Christchurch with her family after the earthquakes.

Flockton, whose older sister Renaye was part of last year's champion team, summed up the importance of being part of a team.

"I like the team event where you rely on everyone else and not just on yourself," Flockton said. "We have worked hard to get the baton changes right."

Columba College Relay team

Coach: Shona Harvey (nee Duncan).
National record: Senior girls bronze medal (2009, 2010), gold medal (2011).
Last year's winning team: Renaye Flockton, Sophie Napper, Melissa Austen, Laura Saville, time 49.86sec.
This year's team: Saville, Analise Cowie, Zoey Flockton, Maddy Spence.

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