Ath­let­ics stal­warts step down

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Mana Am­a­teur Ath­let­ics Club mem­bers, from left, Al­li­son Cook, Neil Har­ris and Joanne Thom­son have a com­bined 80 years at the club.

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