Country Championships wouldn’t be the same without south coast javelin thrower Mary Thomas competing. The 69-year-old,
first competed at the championships in 1961, 53 years ago and the good news she
will be going around this weekend when the 69th NSW Country Championships
travels to her home track, the Kerryn
McCann Athletics Centre in Wollongong.
Thomas started to emerge in the 1960/61 track season where, she competed for
Smith’s Hill High school (in Wollongong) at the NSW Schools championships. She
won the open javelin 33.72m and placed third in the shot. On January 28, 1961,
competing at the Sydney Sports Ground, Thomas, made her first appearance at the
NSW Country Championships
“I was 16-years-old and belonged to Southern Flame Athletic Club in
Wollongong which is now Athletics Wollongong,” Thomas recalled.
“In those days we only had open events and I
remember having to compete against June
Heath (Newcastle) who had competed in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.”
1962, she stepped up the dais to second place, again behind Heath. Then finally
the breakthrough in 1963, her first ever win, taking the title, throwing 40.96m
events at the 1963 Country Championships were dominated by the parents of two
1996 Atlanta Olympian’s Kylie Hanigan
and Tamsyn Lewis-Manou. Hanigan’s
mum, Sophie Hasuik, won the junior
100y and 220y, both in record times, she would go on to win the inaugural
Australian junior 440 yards later in the season. While Lewis-Manou’s mum, Carolyn Wright (Newcastle) won the high
jump and long jump
Thomas, her career of over 50 years was under way. She would go on to win six
NSW open javelin titles, first in 1965 and the last, 17 years later in 1982.
Nationally she won the Australian championships in 1969 and claimed another
four national medals.
was unable to compete at all of the 53 country championships due to the rules.
“I have missed 12 country championships as I
was a member of the Ryde women's Athletic Club in Sydney so I could get good
competition in the weekly Inter Club. I would say I have won 30 or more
javelin titles and it was only when my club mate Louise Mc Paul came onto the scene that I joined the IBS Club (in
1982) as all the competition was now in Wollongong. We had a lot of good
throwers in those days and one year we took out most of the state
titles in different age groups in the Javelin.”
career, Thomas has been coached by some of the best available.
“I was helped with my Javelin technique from
Alf Mitchell (NSW men javelin and world’s best junior) and later on by Colin Smith and Ken Stewart.”
Thomas was also technically advanced.
“I was one of the first women to carry the javelin
over the shoulder as you run up to throw.”
Thomas has been a fan of the country
“The championships are a good way for young athletes to get started as they
are not as strong as the NSW titles. The Country has supplied many great athletes over
the years that have gone on to represent our country in Olympics and
For the timetable, entries, meet records etc, click
here for more
INAUGURAL NSW COUNTRY
The inaugural NSW
Country Championships for men was held at the Sydney Sports Ground (where
the Sydney Football stadium now stands) on January 28th, 1939. Publications of
the day wrote:
“An innovation this year was the holding of Championships
for athletes resident in country areas. The meeting has strong possibilities
and if continued should prove a boon to the country competitors and athletes
The championship conducted 13 open men’s events and three
junior men’s events.
Women’s country championships were
first held on March 11th, 1950 at the Sydney Sports Ground. A full program of
events for open, junior (U18) and sub-junior (U15) were held. Prior to this
meet, there were country 100 yards championships only held. Teams from Lithgow, Blue Mountains, Muswellbrook,
Orange, Grafton, Merriwa, Rylstone, and Weethalle competed.
came from all parts of the State some travelling over 300 miles. A team from
Grafton were billeted with various members of city clubs…I would like to thank
the social committee for their very splendid effort in organizing a picnic for
the visitors…I also wish to thank the members of the social and country
committee for their help in giving the visitors a trip to the zoo.”
David Tarbotton and
Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Mary Thomas
(far left) at the 2009 NSW Country Championships (courtesy of David Tarbotton)