Maeghan Casey (St Mary’s College) finding her running legs

Story courtesy of College Sport Media

Photo credit – Photo Wellington (Masanori Udagawa)

The other contenders at the start line could have been forgiven for not knowing who Maeghan Casey was.

She only took up running three months ago – but she already has two major College Sport Wellington titles to her name.

Last Wednesday she won the College Sport Wellington Regional Senior Girls Cross Country title, in her first ever competitive cross country race. In March she won the Senior Girls 3000m at the CSW Regional Track and Field Championships, in her second race on the track.

It is fair to say that the year 13 St Mary’s College student with a rowing background has taken to her new sport with gusto.

Wednesday’s cross country race saw her beat a competitive field of seasoned runners, winning the 4km distance by 8 seconds to second placed Eliza Squire (Wellington East Girls’ College), with third placed Katelyn Sceats (Wellington Girls’ College) a further 9 seconds back in third.

Not knowing what to expect, she said the best course of action was to take the frontrunning approach.

“My idea was to get out in front and then try and hold my place, rather than try and catch up to the leaders, “she said, “so from early on I did that and managed to stay there until the end.”

“I was hoping I wasn’t going to burn myself out, because I didn’t know what pace everyone else was going to be running at. I just kind of went for it and hoped I would have enough energy left!”

Next up is the 47th New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Hawera on 19 and 20 June.

What prompted her to suddenly take up running at the start of her final year in school?

“I decided to sign up to run at the school athletics day. This was then rained off, so I was asked if I wanted to give the Wellington girls zone meet a go, so I thought I’d go and I finished second in the 3000m.

“I was then offered a run at the regional meet, so with the [rescheduled] school meet in between, I entered that and managed to win there. This was quite exciting for me as I didn’t train with anyone.”

Having her own running spikes for the first time also helped. “In the first race I was wearing my ordinary shoes, then for the school meet I borrowed someone else’s spikes and then I bought my own in time for the regionals.”

Next she went to the North Island Secondary School Track and Field Championships, again not knowing what to expect, finishing mid-table in the SG 3000m. “I didn’t really have a strategy for that race. I just went out really fast and burned myself out by the end.”

Of note, the winner of that same race, Penelope Salmon (Baradene College), broke a 36-year old NISS meet record.

It was about this point that Maeghan was asked by coach John Cope if she wanted to start training with a group of runners, so she joined the Olympic Harriers club.

Starting the winter running season for Olympic Harriers, she made her off-track debut in early May as part of the Olympic Harriers Women’s U20 team that won the University Relays at Queen Elizabeth Park.

She ran in her new track spikes in that event, prompting her to call into the sports shop on the way home that afternoon to buy her first pair of cross-country spikes – footwear that propelled her to victory last Wednesday in her first proper off-track race.

Maeghan may be new to running, but not to competitive sport.

“I have rowed since year 9 and I am a single sculler.”

“This year at Maadi Cup I won the B final [ninth overall] in the U17 Single Sculls. I also came second in the same race at the North Island Club Championships.”

She has also played football in the past and was her school’s second XI goalkeeper until recently.

Her new sport of running has opened future possibilities.

“I was thinking of trying to go to university in the States for rowing, but now running could be an option too if I train hard for the rest of this year.”

She is now training with a group on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while she is also going out for a couple of runs by herself. Living in the northern suburbs she nominates Mt Kaukau as a favourite training ground.