Best friends, record breakers reunite
It has taken almost 40 years for a track record set by four Matamata College students to be broken at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics Championships.
In 1980, the college’s track team of Wendy Williamson nee Hedley, Raewyn Counsell nee Eddie, Susan Deed nee Buchanan and Elizabeth Kalma nee Dearlove set the 4x100m relay record which they held until December 2016 when it was broken by a fraction of a second.
The record-setting 1979-82 Matamata College relay team was coached by Warwick Fenton. Recently he reunited with his champion relay team, a group he described as a force on the track.
Fenton said he has never had a relay team quite like the one he coached all those years ago.
‘‘As a team, no one could touch them,’’ he said.
Matamata College originally held the New Zealand Secondary Schools relay record of 50.40, which in the first heat of the 1980 champs was beaten by Wellington Girls’ College at 50:16s.
In the second heat St Cuthberts lowered it to 50:08s, however the reigning champs took the record back in the third heat to 49.85.
Thirty-seven years on and St Hilda’s Collegiate now has the record, 49.79, recorded at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Athletics Championships on December 2.
At the 1980 champs, Dearlove broke the record of 25.0s, to 24.5s in the 200m sprint. She also won the Pan Pacific School’s 200m sprint, only .07s shy of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games, at just 15 years old.
‘‘She (Elizabeth) is and remains the best womens sprinter I have ever seen,’’ said Fenton.
‘‘(In the relay race) she was well clear and if there was another team pushing her then the team probably would have set the record in the 48+ seconds range, which would have possibly never been beaten in 100 years.’’
The reunion in Matamata was the first time the team and Fenton had met since 1982.
The bond that remains between them is evident and once photo albums came out and memories started flowing, it was very difficult to call the interview to order.
It is clear these girls loved athletics, as Raewyn explained.
‘‘We trained at lunchtime everyday, we were always together,’’ she said.
‘‘We enjoyed going to training, it was our social event.’’
She says they practised baton changes every day and it was that, their speed, plus the camaraderie that helped smash the record.
‘‘Our whole aim was to beat that record. We were ecstatic, we were on top of the world.’’
The ladies are hoping to reunite once again at the 2018 Matamata College Reunion, and Fenton is hoping the whole athletics team will be there too.
The 1979-1982 Matamata College relay team. They held the national 4x100m relay record until December 6. Wendy Hedley, Elizabeth Dearlove, Susan Buchanan, coach Warwick Fenton and Raewyn Eddie reunited recently.
The relay team in 1980. Back row is Raewyn Eddy and Elizabeth Dearlove and in the front, Susan Buchanan and Wendy Hedley.