High school runners on verge of NZ team

Cooper Wightman and  Daniel Prescott.  PHOTOS:  ALISHA LOVRICH / SELWYN ATHLETICS CLUB
Two young runners will have to wait until next month to see if they have made the New Zealand team for the junior world championships in Peru in August.

Christchurch Boys’ High School student Cooper Wightman, 16, and recent St Thomas’ alumnus Daniel Prescott, 17, are among seven runners who have achieved the qualifying time for the 1500m event, but only two can be selected.

The pair, who both run for the Selwyn Athletic Club, went head-to-head at the national track and field championships over the weekend.Wightman finished second in a personal-best time of 3min 47.11sec, and Prescott was fourth 3sec behind Wightman.

But, even if selected, Prescott said he is unlikely to be able to travel to Lima due to upcoming United States college commitments.

He has also already been selected to represent New Zealand at the world cross-country championships in Serbia which start next Saturday.

“I’ll just be focusing on that now,” he said.

Prescott is a member of the six-strong New Zealand team who will run in the under-20 race – and the only one from the South Island.

“It’s going to be a good international experience,” he said.

He said the competition in the race will be fierce.

“There’s a lot of quick people from, for example, Africa. And usually they always go out and they’re the ones that are leading, so I’ll just be doing the best I can, I guess.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Prescott has “three or four” US college running scholarship offers on the table for the school year starting in August, but hasn’t decided where he’ll go yet.

His potential college commitments mean he is unlikely to be able to represent New Zealand at the junior world championships if selected.

“I was hoping to (be able to travel to Peru), but I’ll have my commitments to US colleges,” he said.

“But just to know that I’d be selected, if selected, would be good to know.”

Christchurch Boys’ High School head of athletics Mike Drury said he thinks Wightman now has a “very good chance” to make the squad for junior worlds after his silver medal at the weekend.

“Of the ones that have been competing in New Zealand over the summer, he certainly ranks second out of those athletes.

“The only thing that could now come in as a complication would be if there was a New Zealand athlete who’s overseas on a scholarship or something, who happened to stake a claim by running the qualifying time overseas in the next three or four weeks.”

Drury said Wightman is looking forward to potentially getting the opportunity.

“He’s got to the point where, I think, he’s keen to go and measure himself up against the best under-20s in the world. I’m sure he will have another opportunity in a couple of years time but you never know the sorts of things that life might throw up.”