McEvedy Shield can’t come quick enough for St Pat’s sprinter Alex Haye

Alex Haye intends to lead from the front next week.

The McEvedy Shield ignited Haye’s running career and the St Pat’s Town sprinter hopes that both he and his school can reach new heights at Newtown Park on Tuesday.

Haye and Rusi Jagose-Dickens will jointly captain a Town team that is seeking a fourth successive McEvedy win, a feat that Town have yet to achieve.

In addition, Haye has set himself a goal of breaking the long established McEvedy 400m record.

The McEvedy, which is held on the first Tuesday in March, is contested by only four schools – St Pat’s Town, St Pat’s Silverstream, Wellington College and Rongotai College – but evokes a passion and atmosphere that is rarely matched by any school event.

Haye competed as a high jumper in his first McEvedy, in 2011, but the buzz of the meeting prompted him to take up running.

He finished third in the under-15 200m the following year and won the under-16 100m and finished second in the 200m in 2013.

He stepped up his training for the 2013-14 athletics season and won the open 200m and 400m at the 2014 McEvedy and finished fourth in the 100m.

Haye also began to concentrate on the 400m and, after recording 51.38 at the McEvedy, progressed so quickly that he lowered his best time to 48.69 when runner-up at the national secondary schools championships in December.

He has been happy with his recent form and recorded 49.68 when winning the under-20 division at the Wellington centre championships this month.

He also showed that he was near his peak when winning the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Old Boys Cup meeting against Silverstream last week. A timing malfunction meant his 400m time was not recorded but he returned PBs for both the 100m and 200m.

He is now eyeing the McEvedy 400m record of 49.10, established in 1993, when the races were hand-timed.

“I would like to think that I can break the record,” Haye said.

“My training has been going well and I have been peaking for the McEvedy and the [club] nationals.”

The national championships begin in Wellington on Friday week.

Haye is also enjoying the role of McEvedy captain. “I’m not a very big talker but it’s been good and hopefully we can get a fourpeat.”

Town beat Wellington College by a significant margin last year but while Town and Wellington College would be at short odds to complete the quinella again, the margin between the two schools is expected to be tight.

Head coach Leigh Lidstone is hopeful rather than confident that Town, who have been successful in five of the past seven years, can make it four on end.

“Last year was one of those years when everything went right. We had virtually no injuries and all our best hopes performed up to expectations. But this year we have got four or five significant athletes who will be missing through injury, including Billy Proctor and Fa’aolataga Tau.”

Proctor and Tau picked up three titles each last year.

“I think it will be extremely close and it might come down the relays [which close the meeting],” Lidstone said.

“Usually the track has been our strength and the field events our weakness, but if we win again, it might be the throwers who get us there.

“It is also a team event and a team culture is vital to winning. You often know who is going to win an event but it is the lesser known athletes, who come through with minor placings, that can make the difference.

“Wellington College are always a threat. They have good talent pool, combined with good coaches and structures.”

The under-14 ranks can be something of an unknown quantity but Town have been boosted by Nathan Stirling, previously at St Bernard’s, who picked up a host of wins at the Old Boys meeting, over the sprint and field events.

The McEvedy is conducted over 14 events and four divisions – under-14, under-15, under-16 and open.

There is no significant premium for winning and the points allocation of four for a win, three for second, two for third and one for fourth mean that the minor placegetters can swing the result.

Wellington College have won McEvedy 12 times in the past 20 years and have not been further back than second in the past decade.

“We have got a good side and are reasonably comfortable with where they are at,” Wellington College athletics convener Chris Wells said.

“We have got plenty of athletes and in some cases we have got the best guys in the event but there are some areas where we are not as strong as we would like to be.

“But whether we can win – your guess is as good as mine.

“St Pat’s are very strong at the moment. It could be particularly close and depend on who fronts up on the day.

“But we always look forward to the McEvedy.

“It’s something the athletes will never forget and the culmination of so much effort, by so many people.

“It’s 400 hours of training for something that is all over in four hours.

“It’s also a very competitive event and the atmosphere can be quite daunting for those who haven’t experienced it before.”

The Wellington College team will be led by twins and middle distance runners Harry and Robbie Delany.

“They have been outstanding leaders and have been training the house down,” Wells said. “There won’t be any lack of guts and determination on their part.”