In 1970 (approximately) Northland Masters, along with New Zealand Masters, began its journey; probably with essentially cross-country and road runners. In New Zealand, veteran athletics began in 1962 when Clarrie Gordon (Christchurch) called a meeting of elder runners to form the Canterbury Vet Runners Association. This group was not taken seriously by the senior ranks. Women’s vet cross-country running can be traced back to 1975.
Veteran marathoners were making their presence felt with some Northlanders mentioned in results:
- 1982 | Marg Harries, W35, 1st 3:17:52
- 1992 | Olive Shanks, W55, 1st 3:40:50; and Nan Little, W65, 1st 4:27:05
- 1976 | S Gawler, M45, 1st 2:42:44
- 1980 | S Gawler, M50, 1st 2:47:38 and B Thomas, M55, 1st 3:09:25
- 1991 | I Douglas, M50, 1st 2:47:22
- 1992 | I Douglas, M55, 1st 3:04:14
- 1996 | C Windle, M55, ½ marathon, 1st 1:21:47
- 1997 | C Thorne, M70, ½ marathon, 3:56:46
In 1975 Colleen Brunker took part in the first New Zealand Track and Field Championships held. In 1979 Northland Veteran athletes took part in the New Zealand Championships in Hamilton. In 1981 the World Track and Field Championships, held in Christchurch, saw a small but keen and well prepared group of athletes from the North take part: I Idema, H Marsh, B MacLeod, A Williams, C Brunker and her mother Z Pierce came home with numerous medals from those championships.
The first official committee of Northland Veterans (harriers, track and field athletes and walkers) was formed in 1979 with Colleen Brunker as secretary. Colleen held this position for nearly 35 years. A Williams and B MacLeod were Presidents in the earlier years and V Babe from 1994 to 2011.
The movement was originally overloaded with runners. Throwers later increased in numbers when many of them, having retired, started meeting regularly at midweek. This continued for years each Thursday under the watchful eyes of John Mowat Wilson and Dave Scratton (both good coaches). It is amazing how many medals this group won at the New Zealand Championship level. However, with the increasing age of its members, the Thursday group dwindled.
Northland Masters athletes have attended the World and Oceania Games since their inception. Walkers, spearheaded by Gary Little, Diane Kelly and Diane Barrett, have in the past shown that the Northland Branch caters for all aspects of the sport. Off road running/trail running is also fast becoming recognised and Jim Kettlewell won a World Championship title in his age group at the Hawaiian X-Terra World Trail Running Championships in 2011.
Masters (veteran) athletes pay a subscription to their Northland branch which in turn pays a levy to the New Zealand body. In the early days the subscription was $17. With the current New Zealand Masters subscriptions increased to $45, our total subscription of $55 means just $10 from each athlete for the Northland branch. Clearly we are a non-profit organisation, but we still manage to meet all our expenses!
The committee organises runs in the winter months. In addition, the Northland track and field championships are conducted annually for masters athletes, including the weight pentathlon and pentathlon.
Registered masters athletes can attend the New Zealand Road Championships and New Zealand Cross-country Championships in the masters sections as long as they are registered (ie. have a paid subscription with Athletics New Zealand), together with walking championships, Masters North Island Track and Field Championships and New Zealand Masters Track and Field Championships.
Masters athletics membership numbers in Northland have ranged from 26-66 over the years. The movement is in good heart and it is never too late for this type of activity.
Written by Colleen Brunker (edited)
Colleen Brunker, a legend in Northland athletics, passed away on 13 December 2012. An obituary was printed in the January 2013 Vetline.