History

Formed in 1925, Wanganui Harrier Club has a long and proud history in the River City. William Wallace Bramwell was one of those early pioneers and his name lives in perpetuity in the form of the Bramwell Teams Trophy, which is one of the important dates on the Club calendar. Like all Clubs it has been through highs and lows in terms of membership and achievements but after almost 80 years it still remains in good heart with membership of around 100. The Club has numerous homes over its’ history but more recently has been based at the old Wanganui Tennis Club site at Victoria Park in Parsons Street.

In the early days up until the late 1960’s, the Club was a young mans’ domain but as society has changed this has seen a shift to a more family friendly environment. The acceptance of womens participation, veteran age groups and walking has seen a change in face of the Club. The family unit has become the all-important component of the membership with all branches catered for. And on that subject, the Club has a history of continuous ties with a number of families with names such as Hopper, Harrison and Hoskyn all having long associations. And then there were the Johnston brothers who unfortunately lost their lives in WWII with their name living on in the Cross Country trophy competed for in their name.

The Club has also had strong ties with other Harrier groups with the likes of Hutt Valley Harriers and Athletics Masterton prominent through the competition for the Carr Shield and the Benson Gate. The Club has also competed annually at the likes of the Dorne Cup at Trentham, the Hughes Memorial at Hawera and the North Island Cross Country Champs in Taupo. In the late 1960’s the Club also was prominent when taking on the competition in the lower half of the island with a Junior Team winning the Shaw Baton Relays in 1967 and the senior mens’ team winning in 1968 & 1969.

Over the years the Club has had some outstanding athletes. While not an exhaustive list some of the more prominent members have been:-Charlie Weller who won 4 New Zealand Cross Country titles from 1936 to 1939. Had the war not intervened who knows what Charlie would have gone on to achieve.

  • Bev Shingles who was at the forefront of the growth in womens’ running in the 1970’s. Bev won a national Cross Country title in 1971 and was in the top 8 at the World Cross Country Champs in Spain in 1970. She also set the standards for womens marathon running in New Zealand with a 2 hr 48 min time in 1976 being 30 min quicker than the previous best.
  • Lou Boosey who was a Junior 3 Mile champion in 1965. Over 40 years later Lou won gold in his age group at the New Zealand Road Champs in Napier.
  • Kevin Ross who while being an excellent Harrier achieved notoriety on the track with Junior 880 yards title in 1966, Senior 880 yards champion from 1967 to 1969 and Senior 1500m title in 1971.
  • J K McDonald whose legacy lives on in having the fastest time around the 4.2km loop of the Round The Bridges relay. J K McDonald also went on to become a prominent veteran athlete.
  • Dean Crowe represented New Zealand at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games.
  • Margurite Buist (nee Couchman) competed for New Zealand in the Marathon at the Auckland Commonwealth Games.
  • Duncan Ross competed with distinction on the national stage and represented New Zealand at the World Cross Country Champs in Italy 1996. Ross won New Zealand claimed NZ Cross Country & Road titles in U18 & U20 and was 3rd as a Senior in 1998.
  • Sarah McLeod won the 1995 NZ Road Champs U18 Womens title. She also won the North Island Cross Country U16 Girls event 4 years running.
  • Jason Cressingham won the Mens U18 New Zealand Cross Country title in 1999.
  • Karen Herdman competed with distinction in the late 1990’s & early 2000’s including a womens’ title at the Dorne Cup in Wellington.
  • And more latterly Brad Mathas has won a New Zealand Junior Secondary Schools Cross Country title as well as having major success on the track with New Zealand age group & secondary titles.
  • Other names such as Jeremy Griffiths, Ray Langmead, Viv Eyers and Denise Adams have all won age group titles across a wide range of events in the last 10 or so years.

As stated above, the list is by no means exhaustive and represents only a section of many fine competitors having run and walked in the club colours (these days a mix of blue, black & white but in years past a black singlet with the club monogram).

And finally the Club has been served well by some outstanding administrators over the years including the remarkable Les Stephenson who was Club President from 1964 to 1979. His association with the Club went back to 1931 and was continuous up until his death at which time he held the position of Patron. Many of these administrators’ names are held in perpetuity through Club trophies with the likes of Digger Joyce, C R White, Charlie Weller etc immortalized in silver.

So as we work our way towards 2025 we understand that those that pass through the ranks have the responsibility to hold the guardianship over the Club so that we honour those that went before us and preserve it for those that come after us. It is a proud legacy and what we hope is a bold future.