Young athlete racing along nicely

Marlborough athlete Lucy Harman has come a very long way since her first competitive outing.

The 16-year-old Marlborough Girls’ College Year 11 student is rapidly working her way up the national track and field middle distance rankings, while also claiming cross country titles in the top of the south.

However, she laughingly recalls her first competitive foray out of Marlborough. As an 11-year-old member of the Marlborough Children’s Athletics Club [MCAC] she travelled to Nelson with the team for an annual meet.

Having only run on grass tracks at home, Lucy was unprepared for the artificial surface at Saxton Field and had brought no shoes with her.

On a scorching hot day she ran in the 800m and ended up with badly-blistered feet. However, she then lined up for the 1500m, this time in her socks. The starter asked if she was going to put on some shoes to which she replied, “I don’t have any with me”.

She duly ran the race, which she won, as she did the 800m, showing the talent and determination that marked her down as an athlete to watch.

“That’s probably where it all started,” said Lucy, who admitted the red marks stained on her socks from the track were a reminder of that day for quite some time.

She followed that effort with a silver medal at the Colgate Games as a 12-year-old, recalling the “awesome feeling of being on the podium was something she wanted to experience again”.

And there have been no shortage of podium finishes for the youngster since then, her recent summer filled with success on the track.

After breaking records at the MGC sports, she claimed the under-16 800 and 1500m double at the Tasman champs and was second in both events at the 2019 South Island schools, setting a PB of 2 minutes 17 seconds in the 800m.

At a higher level, she finished 12th overall in the under-18 800m at the track and field nationals in March, then eighth in the final of the under-18 1500m with an eight-second personal best of 4.51, ranking her 12th nationwide. She also claimed an 800m fifth in the junior section at the NZ schools champs.

During the winter there is cross country to keep her occupied and in late May she won the Tasman senior girls title over 4km at Rabbit Island.

In fact, it was after winning the Marlborough primary schools cross country as a year six student that Lucy “caught the [running] bug”.

Her success prompted her to train a bit harder and when she joined the MCAC she realized that athletics “was what I want to do … so it just carried on from there”.

For the past 18 months Lucy has been trained by Nelson-based coach Greg Lautenslager who she “bumped into” at the Queen Charlotte Relay, a family friend suggesting “if you want a coach he is the guy to go to”. The partnership has worked well, Lautenslager providing training advice and race tactics for his young charge.

His programmes, based around Arthur Lydiard ‘s philosophies, have her doing five to six sessions a week during track season, mixing long runs with sprint training. During the winter she manages around five runs a week, mixing her time with the demands of playing for the MGC Year 11 netball team. She also occasionally joins in with local triathlon coach Mark Grammer’s running squad.

“Winter training is where you do a lot of the hard work and summer is where you get the chance to show it off on the track. National secondary schools [athletic champs] are at the very start of the season so you have to do a lot of work over the winter if you want to perform well there,” she explained.

And it is on the track that Lucy sees her future. She enjoys her on-going rivalry with a couple of the South Island’s best middle distance runners, Rosie Trotter, who pipped her by 0.3 seconds in the 1500m at the South Island champs, and fellow Christchurch athlete Chloe Hughes.

“It’s great going to a meet and knowing they will be there and we will have such a good rivalry … that’s another great thing about athletics, I have made friends all over the country now.”

She prefers the tactical battle of the 1500m event to the two-lap sprint of the 800m. “I love that side of [racing] so you are not just going out and running as hard as you can … with sprinting it just comes down to you, but over 1500m it’s more about racing other people.”

The time management required to balance a busy schedule of school work, sport and social life can be tough, Lucy admits. “With it getting dark so early now if I have to go for a 50-minute run I sometimes end up running with a torch to see where I am going. You have to be organized and use your time wisely.”

On Lucy’s immediate radar is the NZ schools cross country champs on June 15-16, followed by the usual track and field meets over the hotter months. She steps up to senior grade at the NZ schools champs, but is still racing in the under-18 grade at the NZ track and field champs so is keen to improve her previous placings.

Long-term she has ambitions of gaining a track scholarship to a college in the USA and competing on the highly-competitive scene in the States which, given her recent progress, seems a logical step – as long as she remembers to bring her shoes of course.

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