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Club History

The Old Boys'-United Athletic Club (abbreviating its formal name to the one more commonly used) has been in its present form since 1988 when two Christchurch clubs, each with long histories, amalgamated.

The Old Boys' Connection

The "Old Boys" half was established in 1920 under the encouragement of the Old Boys' Association of Christchurch Boys' High School, and close ties with that School are still maintained by the Club in its present form (even though it is now a club which is completely open to men and women of all ages).  The Old Boys Athletic Club claimed its first New Zealand title when W H B Buckhurst won the 120 yards hurdles in 1922 and he added the long jump title the following year.  A decade later, Jack McFarlane was New Zealand's dominant sprinter over 100 and 220 yards between 1932 and 1935 and his efforts earn special mention in Peter Heidenstrom's authoritative "Athletes of the Century".  The post-war years through to the 1960's were comparatively lean years for the Old Boys' Club but Robin Ball (a teacher at CBHS) and Tony Steel (later an All Black and recently an MP) achieved several national titles between them.

Paul Davies, who was Tony Steel's coach, was almost single-handedly responsible for the Club's significant impact in the late 1960's and the 1970's.  Ever innovative, he introduced pre-season conditioning work at Woodend Beach - a tradition that continued through to the 21st century.  Prominent among his many proteges were the trio of 1974 Commonwealth Games representatives:  Grant Anderson, Trevor Cochrane and Rendell McIntosh.  Four years later walker Graham Seatter competed in Edmonton and at Brisbane in 1982 the Club had its first female Games representative in Karen Forbes.  Also there was Terry Lomax who had made New Zealand sporting history the year before with the first 7-foot high jump by a New Zealander.

In the decade prior to amalgamation in October 1988, the club operated as the Old Boys'-Te Kura Club, the latter half of the name coming from a 1977 amalgamation with the small Te-Kura Harrier Club which had operated out of Christchurch Boys' High School.  The winter side of this club was unfortunately short-lived but the summer side had some notable successes and, with a well-balanced men's team plus a small number of high quality female athletes (including the then national long and triple jump record holder, Jayne Mitchell - now recognisable as Jayne Keily), the OBTK club turned many heads with a spirited second placing in the points-scoring National Athletic League Final in Auckland at Easter, 1988.

The Marist/United Connection

Meanwhile, back in 1935, the "United" side of the present club had its origins when the Marist Harrier Club was formed.  During its early years its small membership was a noticeable presence on the local harrier scene and its year-round operation began in 1949 when it amalgamated with its younger cousin, the Marist Athletic Club.  The truly outstanding member in the years following was Jim Daly.  This fine athlete, described by one sports writer of the time as "a student of correct method and an excellent stylist in relaxed running", at one time held the New Zealand resident records for one, two and three miles and ran at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver.

The Marist Club introduced an annual marathon in the 1960's which later became an open race, attracting 72 starters in 1968 - very large by the standards of the time.  In 1974 the club decided that it could not organize both this and its other major annual event, the Port Hills Relay, so the marathon was phased out.  The Port Hills Relay, first run in 1960, continued to be one of the biggest road relays on the Canterbury calendar of events but current traffic management requirements have necessitated a much modified relay format – now called the Riverside Relay.

The summer activities of the Marist Club went into recess in 1971 and a change of name to United Harrier Club occurred the following year to broaden the attractiveness of the club to new members.  It remained, however, a dominantly winter club whereas the Old Boys Club had the reverse problem of a strong summer presence but an inability to attract distance runners because of its lack of a winter side

Post-1988:  Old Boys'-United

Amalgamation of the two clubs was seen to be of clear mutual benefit under the circumstances just described and, despite the inevitable early difficulties of trying to fully integrate two groups, each having close-knit associations and friendships, overall the club has emerged as a stronger unit which is much more viable as a whole than its two components were on their own.

Competitive successes have continued unabated:  Jayne Mitchell in the long jump, Grant Gilbert in the 400m, plus Terry Lomax (now in demand as a coach and currently based in UK but with an enviable tally of titles and international representatives to his credit) and Peter Henry in the decathlon, competed in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.  Since then, very notable sprinting successes have been achieved nationally and internationally (including the Atlanta Olympics) by Mark Keddell who was also part of the club's powerful men's relay teams whose performances surpassed those of most provincial teams in many seasons.  Caro Hunt became another female Club member to gain international selection, joining Mark Keddell at the World Junior Championships in Lisbon in 1994.  Fellow juniors Jennifer Edmond, Mark Edmond, Gideon van Schalkwyk and Nathan Godfrey joined Caro in an augmented NZ Junior team which competed in Australia prior to the August 1996 World Junior Championships in Sydney, with Mark Edmond competing in the 400m Hurdles in the Champs. themselves.  The year before (1995) saw five club members competing in the World Student Games in Fukuoka, Japan.  On the distance side, Murray Newman, with improving cycling skills, gained selection for the World Duathlon Championships in Dallas, Texas, in 1993, and further evidence of the versatility of Club members was the selection of Rhys Dacre and Peter Henry for the New Zealand bobsled team at the Calgary Winter Olympics and, in 2002, Mark Edmond did the same thing at Salt Lake City.

On the coaching side, the Club has been extremely well served in recent years by Terry Lomax, Karen Forbes-Henry (both coaches with NZ teams overseas), Bryan Atkins, Leo Steel, Jeff Bailey, Alan Tucker, Andrew MacLennan, Andrew Sullivan and Phil Hazlett, very ably assisted by a number of senior athletes who have willingly shared much of their knowledge and experience with up-and-coming athletes.  Much of the Club's competitive successes in track and field in recent years is attributable to the year-long access which members have to all-weather training facilities (at Christchurch Boys’ High School) which no other club in the South Island can match.

The names of past and present members of the Club appear around 20 times in the full set of current New Zealand records and an analysis of the current list of Canterbury track and field records shows the names of Club members appearing around 40 times, with the majority of these being in the men's and boy's grades.  In recent years, however, it is the female members who have been achieving the most notable national and international success with Caro Hunt, Rebecca Wardell and Melina Hamilton being the most prominent names.  Melina competed in the pole vault at the Manchester Commonwealth Games while Caro and Rebecca were selected for the Oceania team for the recent World Cup in Spain.  Unbeknown to some members, the club did have a representative in Sydney in 2000 – and a medal-winner, no less!  We’re very proud of Matthew Slade’s success at the Paralympics.  There are about 40 competing members of the Club, ranging in age from early teens to 30+ years.  During the last few summers there has been a gratifying influx of new members, including many young men and women of high school age, so the present high competitive strength of the Old Boys'-United Club seems destined to continue.

Recent Developments:  Garden City "Super-club"

During the winter of 1995, OBU entered into discussions with our closest neighbouring clubs (Christchurch Avon and University) to look at ways in which we could cooperate for the mutual benefit of the athletes in the three clubs (which each have their own but different areas of strength and weakness).  Out of this arose what was a new concept for Canterbury - a "super" or "umbrella" club, named Garden City Athletic Club - a true pioneer to the extent that its constitution has been circulated as the "model" for other umbrella clubs!  Each of the three clubs retains its separate identity for training and local competition purposes, but our competitive strengths can be combined for national events such as the National League and National Road Relays.  As Garden City, third placing in the 1996 National League Final was secured, "defending" the 3rd place obtained by Old Boys'-United the year before.  Before the winter of 1997 it was apparent that the winter section of OBU was unsustainable so we encouraged our remaining winter runners to compete for one of our “sister” clubs but still be the under the same umbrella of Garden City.  In the same spirit of mutual cooperation for the collective good,  the emerging sprinter/jumper/thrower athletes from Christchurch-Avon’s children’s section have tended to move across to OBU ranks as they graduate from the Children’s age grades.  Naturally we are excited about the potential this flexible umbrella arrangement offers, not just in national competitions but also in terms of better opportunities for sharing facilities, coaching and training opportunities without losing our valued club identity.

Revision date 29/9/02

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