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19 October 2021 • Events

2022 Colgate Games

18 October 2021 • Announcement

Athletics Under Alert Levels 2 & 3 Updated

7 October 2021 • Announcement

Mt Smart Stadium Re-Open for Training

6 October 2021 • Announcement

Auckland Road Championships Cancelled

4 October 2021 • Announcement

Event Update – 4th October 2021

17 September 2021 • Announcement

Auckland Race Walker Alana Barber Retires

3 September 2021 • Announcement

Covid 19 Lockdown Auckland

23 August 2021 • Announcement

A Guide to the Paralympics

23 August 2021 • Announcement

ACA Relays – A Covid-19 Exposure Site

10 August 2021 • Events

NZ Cross Country Championships – Dunedin

22 July 2021 • Coaching

Aspire Winter Track & Field Academy

14 July 2021 • General

Track & Field Officials of the Year

14 July 2021 • Coaching

Athletics NZ Coach The Coach Workshops

13 July 2021 • General

McKinnon Shield Presentation

12 July 2021 • Announcement

Athletics NZ weekly round up

15 June 2021 • General

GP 3 Incorporating Auckland Teams Race

3 June 2021 • Uncategorized

For an update on upcoming Coaching Courses

31 May 2021 • Announcement

Ronan Lee storms home to win #XC2021 Round 2

31 May 2021 • Announcement

Samoan Language Week

17 May 2021 • Announcement

Athletics Auckland Grand Prix Race Results

15 March 2021 • Announcement

Colgate Games 2022

5 March 2021 • Announcement

Athletics Auckland Junior Championships 2021

5 March 2021 • Announcement

McKinnon Shield 9 – Competition update

2 March 2021 • Announcement

Nationals update from Athletics New Zealand

28 February 2021 • Announcement

Athletics Auckland Weekly Review – 1st March 2021

27 February 2021 • Announcement

Athletics NZ Track & Field Championships – Postponed

27 February 2021 • Events

World Athletics Continental Tour – Auckland

22 February 2021 • Announcement

Athletics NZ Child Safety and Member Welfare Update

18 February 2021 • Announcement

Auckland Stadiums Alert Level 2 Guidelines

16 February 2021 • Announcement

Auckland Grade 7-14yrs Championships Postponed

12 February 2021 • Announcement

Porritt Classic 2021

2 February 2021 • General

Officials C Track Seminar

29 January 2021 • Events

Cooks Classic

29 January 2021 • Events

North Island U16 & U18 Interprovincials

28 January 2021 • Coaching

Sprint Relay Session at Mt Smart #2 Arena

26 January 2021 • Events

Auckland Team to NZ Track & Field Champs

25 January 2021 • Announcement

Athletics Auckland Championships – Entries closing

24 January 2021 • Announcement

Auckland Results – McKinnon Shield & Potts Classic

23 January 2021 • Announcement

Alana Barber sets new records at the Potts Classic

18 January 2021 • Announcement

Zoe Hobbs Record Breaking Run!

13 January 2021 • Announcement

Colgate Games Scholarships 2021

21 December 2020 • Announcement

NZ Schools Track & Field Selected Team

21 December 2020 • Announcement

Daikin Night of 5’s – Auckland Women lead the way

17 December 2020 • Announcement

Oceania Area Permit Preview- Night of 5’s

16 December 2020 • Announcement

Athletes Community Award Badge

9 December 2020 • Coaching

Athletics Auckland Junior Festival Meets

4 December 2020 • Announcement

Inter Provincial U16-U18 Auckland Team Named

20 November 2020 • Events

Oceania Athletics One Day Meetings 2020/21

18 November 2020 • General

Getting on with living – Julian Castle

4 November 2020 • Events

Ingrid Frost Completes 300 Marathons

27 October 2020 • Events

NZ Road Race Championships

22 September 2020 • Uncategorized

North Sport Academy Junior Coaching Coordinator Vacancy

14 September 2020 • Announcement

All events cancelled for September

11 September 2020 • Announcement

Mt Smart #2 Arena

4 September 2020 • Announcement

Athletics Auckland Road Relays Cancelled

28 July 2020 • Events

Inter Provincial U16-U18 Newsletter One

26 July 2020 • Announcement

Cross Country & Road

22 July 2020 • General

Keegan Pitcher – Para Athlete

22 July 2020 • General

Anna Steven – Para Athlete T64

1 July 2020 • General

Kaia Tupu-South

26 May 2020 • History

Flashback Thursday – 21st May 2020

14 May 2020 • History

Flashback Thursday – 14th May 2020

8 May 2020 • History

Flashback Thursday – 2nd April 2020

8 May 2020 • History

Flashback Thursday – 7th May 2020

21 April 2020 • Events

2020 Cross Country & Road Season

22 July 2020 • General

Keegan Pitcher - Para Athlete

Para athlete Keegan Pitcher has shown tremendous resilience over the past few years after facing a number of challenging setbacks. Steve Landells speaks to the converted middle-distance runner who hopes to feature at the rescheduled 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo next year.

Since Keegan Pitcher made a spectacular entrance to international competition by winning T36 400m and 800m bronze at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London – just 11 months after taking up the sport seriously – the Aucklander has had to face his fair share of challenges.

In 2018 he underwent a re-classification to the T38 division – a switch which was to change the entire route of his career. He later underwent a change of event from 400m to the 1500m and more recently has had to overcome the blow of a stress fracture of the foot.

But despite the setbacks, the 22-year-old remains unbowed and has firmly set his sights on an appearance at the rescheduled Paralympics in Tokyo next year.

Born with cerebral palsy, Keegan played both softball and football as a child yet it was only after completing the 200m and 400m double at the 2016 Junior Disability Games that his running career started in earnest.

Picked up by coach Hamish Meacheam, his progress came at a stunning rate of knots and in less than a year of full training he powered to T36 400m and 800m bronze – one place behind fellow Kiwi William Stedman in the latter event – at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

Aged just 19 at the time, it was an unlikely achievement and one which Keegan still reflects on with a certain degree of bemusement.

“It is all still a bit of a blur,” he explains. “Everything that happened (in London) was still a shock to the system. I wasn’t expecting two bronze medals. It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot from that trip and it showed me what possibilities athletics could bring.”

Yet, as quickly as his hopes and aspirations soared, he was to suffer a major setback in early 2018. The International Paralympic Committee had proposed a review of the classification system which meant all cerebral palsy athletes faced a new set of testing criteria. Keegan headed over to Australia to undergo the testing and was re-classified from a T36 up to the T38 division because his form was “too symmetrical and too nice”. Suddenly part of a classification group with less severe disabilities and much faster runners, his world had turned on its head.

“I was devastated and I had a little cry,” he admits. “It was an emotional week, one of the most stressful and emotional weeks I’ve ever had. But once I came back home I had a de-brief with my coach and we tried to look on the positive side.”

He re-focused his efforts on the T38 400m but during the 2018-19 domestic campaign he hit upon a glass ceiling in the one-lap race.

Despite making positive inroads in training, this was not reflected in his performances when racing.

“I knew deep down I had to find three or four seconds in the 400m to be able to make world and Paralympic finals but I was struggling to make even a half-second improvement,” he recalls of this period.

Frustrated and with no T38 800m race on the programme, he opted to last year change his training to also focus on not only the 400m but the 1500m as well.

Having won T36 world 800m bronze medal in 2017, the switch to the 1500m was in some ways a return to his first love of middle-distance running.

Fully supported by coach Meacheam, he also fully appreciates the backing he has received from Athletics NZ.

“They have always been willing to support me, even though I’d gone from a world T36 bronze medallist to a T38 unknown,” he says.

Adjusting his training from three or four track sessions a week to just one track session and four longer runs, he found he quickly loved running the longer mileage.

And he arrived at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai – where he competed in both the 400m and 1500m – in good shape. Exiting the heats of the 400m in sixth in 56.74 was not what he had in mind but at least it crystallised his thinking about the one-lap event.

“Dubai was like a pivotal moment for me because it made me realise I didn’t like 400m as much the 1500m,” says Keegan. “After my 400m heats I rang up Hamish and said ‘that is my last 400m international race. From this point on I want to focus on the 1500m’.”

His performance in the 1500m offered great reassurance he had made the right choice. Hacking 17 seconds from his PB, he finished 13th in the final in 4:35.77 he said “he could not have done anymore” and from that point on he has been 100 per cent focused on the metric mile.

Competing at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Christchurch in March he ran a time of 4:41.44 Ostensibly running solo he was “stoked” to come within six seconds of his PB and was delighted with the even paced nature of the race.

However, within a week of this victory in the Garden City, Keegan faced his latest challenge when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture on the second metatarsal of the left foot.

Intending to run at the Australian Championships – which were soon to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic – the injury was initially a devastating blow for the West Aucklander.

“It was the first time since I started running that I was unable to do so,” explains Keegan, who admits the injury may have been caused by running longer reps in spikes as a remodelled middle-distance runner. “Even during the disappointment of the re-classification I was able to run.”

Yet as the full fall out of the pandemic and the lockdown started to bite, Keegan’s initial frustration at the injury turned into relief. With no competition taking place globally, the timing of the injury was not so bad. Meanwhile, the decision to reschedule the 2020 Paralympics 12 months to 2021 also worked in the Kiwi’s favour.

“I was glad they made that decision because it gives me another 12 months to get over the stress fracture and also more time to cut another 12 seconds from my PB (chasing the Paralympic qualification mark of 4:23:00).”

From the outside, an improvement of 12 seconds may seem an ambitious goal. However, given his basic speed as a 56-second 400m performer and his huge scope to enhance his endurance, Keegan, who last month graduated from college as a PE and health teacher, is optimistic there is a lot more to come.

“I’ve only really been training as a 1500m runner for a year, so I don’t have the endurance of athletes that have been training for five, six or seven years. The biggest gain I can make is on the endurance side. I already have the speed, I just need to combine it with that strength and endurance.”

Keegan has been back running a month and is sensibly running just three days a week, with two bike sessions per week, a water-based running session and a yoga/stretching workout.

In the longer-term, given the toll of running on his body he might retain the bike and water-based sessions but for now he is looking ahead positively to the future.

“It has been very challenging,” he says of the past few years. “But I keep reminding myself to focus on the good times. These things are there to test us. There have been times when I’ve thought about throwing in the towel but I just have to push through it. Running has definitely been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I still do it because I love running.”

Story from Athletics New Zealand

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