15 Apr 2021

Thursday 15 April 2021

James Harding (Year 13, Greenbank) broke the NZ U18 800m record last week with a time of 1.48.95, taking the title from Kiwi Olympian and two-time medalist, Nick Willis.

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Coach and King's Head of Distance running, Perry Cunningham, comments that "Athletically, this is huge." We caught up with James to get his take on the momentous achievement:

First of all, congratulations on the national record, James! How did you feel when you found out you broke the record?

Thanks! Yeah it was pretty surreal. When I finished the race, everyone was kind of iffy if I had made it or not because, since I was just 0.03 seconds faster than the previous record of 1.48.98, it was right down to the line. Some people were saying it was 1.49, others said it was 1.48 so it was really 50/50. The meet director, he ran upstairs in the stadiums to get the official sheet and I said, “Oh, .98 is what I need”. So when he announced that I got .95, everyone around us just went, ‘Oh my god’.

How did you feel beforehand? Did it feel like ‘the’ run?

I had a pacer. And he got me through bang on time. So I had confidence I could do it. But he pulled out a bit too early so the last 300 meters or so were pretty hard. I felt good but I was just worried that I’d be slightly off. I had said before the race to my mum that it might be .01 off or something really tight, so going into the race I really wanted to make sure I could get it comfortably.

What did the preparation for the run look like?

I had New Zealand Under 20s Athletics Champs the week before, so we were building up for that and that acted as preparation for the race. I had goals throughout the season to hit it but I fell short by point two seconds earlier in the year. So it was 50/50 with the preparation, because I was training for the whole week and then the race. So I didn't really have an ideal build up. But yeah, I knew I had it in me, it was just when I would do it.

So what can we look forward to next from you? 

For now, we'll mostly just be training. Since it's Winter soon, we're going to get into the cross country season and get ready for that. I think the team would love to take the three-man title at New Zealand Secondary schools Cross Country Champs. That's been one of our goals since I first came to King's, so we'll be building up for that.

The College congratulates James on his fantastic performance and the impressive effort that went into the record-breaking run. We look forward to James' next accolades as he continues to develop his promising sporting career.