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Prepared . . . North Otago Athletics member Sebastian Spillane (14, left) and Camden Burge (14) on the starting blocks. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A surge in North Otago Athletics numbers has taken organisers “a bit by surprise”.

The club’s first “have a go” events for the season attracted about 70 athletes, about 20 more than in previous years, club deputy president Jeff Spillane said.

“It’s been a big turnout in the younger members .. we usually sit pretty stable at about 50,” Spillane said.

It was always popular among 7 to 10-year-olds, but he believed “word of mouth” helped garner new members.

New coach Sue Brydges would host programmes targeted for competitive athletes 12 and over, and the club would organise fun trainings for the younger groups.

Seeing athletes’ skills develop and flourish was a highlight of being involved with the club, he said.

“There’s lots that come with natural ability, and then there’s a lot of kids that come down that are middle of the road, and seeing them develop is quite cool.”

The rise in numbers meant more than 20 athletes would compete in the Dunedin interclub competition, starting tomorrow.

North Otago has featured “quite strongly” in the past couple of years – athletes won nearly 20 titles at the Otago children’s track and field championships.

“The last three years we’ve really built some interest in the interclub.

“Getting more of the kids exposed to the Dunedin club competition will be really good for the club.”

Briar Johnson was a “phenomenal” performer for the club last year, claiming a silver medal in the 100m sprint, at the New Zealand secondary schools track and field championships.

Schuyler Orr was a member of the Otago 100m relay team that won silver at the championships.

He went on to win the Otago 100m senior men’s sprint title.

It was expected the club would have more athletes moving into the competitive under-16 and under-18 grades this season, he said.