Athletics stalwarts step down
Many of Neil Harris’ memories are lost in the sands of the long jump pit at Adventure Park, but a few remain.
‘‘I was secretary of the Colgate Games in Wellington in 1982,’’ he said.
‘‘My daughter Katrina was in the final of the 14 girls 800 metres and I remember her looking over at me as she came down the stretch.
‘‘I was mad at her for pulling up, knowing she’d won a medal, but she wasn’t pushing for the gold.’’
Harris, 83, was recently recognised for his 40 years’ service at Mana Amateur Athletics Club. He has held just about every role possible at the club and was the starter in recent years.
He’s had to give it away because his health is not what it once was.
‘‘My wife has been one of the biggest supporters of me and the club, without getting recognition. But even she said recently, ‘ You old fool. You need to give it up.’ So I’m agreeing with her.’’
Between Harris, Joanne Thomson and Allison Cook – three of the club’s five life members – there is 80 years of volunteering and experience at Mana Amateur Athletics. All three stepped down from their coaching and committee roles at the end of the season.
‘"You get involved through your kids,’’ Cook said. ‘"For some of us, we started and it just kept going. Before you know it, you’re a coach or a treasurer and it just becomes part of your life.
‘‘ For a long time you think there’s no-one else to do things at the club, but now there is. I enjoyed my time – brilliant people and a great club.’’
Thomson’s children, Anna and Scott, are both nationally ranked in the triple jump, and her husband, Richard, wore New Zealand colours as a shot putter 20 year ago.
‘‘Atheltics has always been big in our family and this club has been a part of that,’’ Thomson said.
Harris said the Mana club had never had expensive equipment or a flash venue, but the spirit was well and truly alive in the committee and its children.
He said there were enthusiastic members on the committee who would ensure the club fulfilled its core values and had a presence at regional and national competitions.
He can recall the club’s early days at Discovery School, then Adventure Park – Porirua City Council didn’t take too kindly to him filling in a drain – before another move to the police college.
Ngatitoa Domain was next, before the move back to Adventure Park.
‘‘Mana Athletics has operated under all different conditions and at all different places, but the members and the athletes have always made it work.’’
Harris, Cook and Thomson would love Porirua to one day have an all- weather track, so Mana’s athletes don’t have to travel to Newtown or Masterton to compete.
But Adventure Park is just fine for Tuesday night trainings, they all agree.
Mana Amateur Athletics Club members, from left, Allison Cook, Neil Harris and Joanne Thomson have a combined 80 years at the club.