Sunday, 20 September 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Community support is driving the growth and development of MB Athletics Club

The former coach of Kiwi sports icon and Olympic champion, Dame Valerie Adams, will be in Whitianga this weekend to put the rookie coaches from the Mercury Bay Athletics Club through their paces.

Kirsten Hellier, a Commonwealth Games silver medallist in javelin, will be part of a training team from Athletics New Zealand who will spend Saturday helping the mostly parent volunteers learn the basics of a range of track and field events, as well as two basic skills programmes, ahead of the club’s second and hugely transformative season. A true community effort is coming together to get the club installed at its new home at the Mercury Bay Multiport Park in Whitianga.

Started last year by a group of mums who were keen to bring athletics back to the Bay, the pace at which the club has grown and evolved has stunned its founding members and the committee has been blown away by the level of kindness and generosity that has seen thousands of dollars invested both in money as well as donations of equipment, time and labour.

“I get quite emotional about it actually,” says club president, Alana Baker, taking in the newly regraded and drained section of the Multisport Park where throwing circles for discus and shot put have just been dug out. Concreting is due to take place this week, followed by seeding. Further along, a long jump is taking shape and RMS Surveyors - one of many local businesses donating their help - will be back to measure out the 400m running track.

Coastal Excavation has been responsible for the transformation of what was an uneven, elevated section of unused ground. “It was a huge job, every time I came out there would be something else happening, the guys would just show up and get it done,” Alana says. “So many people have contributed. I couldn’t even put a figure on the value on the labour, materials and machinery, but it is huge.”

The club has the support of Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Mercury Bay Community Board has also helped out with $3,000 from the latest round of Community Grants to help purchase equipment. “That will go towards a high jump mat,” Alana says. “Coastal Engineering is also helping us out by making our discus cage, that would have cost us at least $6,000 to purchase. Ace Panel & Paint is going to paint all the equipment and Athletics Waikato/Bay of Plenty have been able to give us shot putts, discuses, starter blocks, relay batons and all sorts. We are on track for our first night on Tuesday, 20 October. There are just too many people to mention individually, but we are so thankful to everyone who has supported us.”

After starting last year with three to nine-year olds, the club is expanding to include members up to aged 18. All the new facilities have been designed to meet Athletics New Zealand specifications and members will be able to compete in official competitions. To meet COVID-19 related requirements, registrations are temporarily limited in each age group and there is already a wait list for four to 10 year olds.

Alana is hopeful that this will change with reduced alert levels in the coming weeks. However, numbers are also dependent on having volunteers willing to help out. This Saturday’s training day is another step in recruiting those vital people for what Alana says is a really fun and rewarding role. “You don’t need any previous experience,” she says. “None of us knew anything when we started out but the guys that come in from Athletics New Zealand to train us are really awesome. They understand what we are trying to achieve and they are so helpful. To have Kirsten Hellier coming here on Saturday to teach us is a pretty amazing opportunity.”

To register for the training day, email Alana at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pictured:President of Mercury Bay Athletics Club, Alana Baker, says work is on schedule for the club’s move to the Mercury Bay Multisport Park.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.