Early titles in both track and field at Nationals
By Dave Crampton
It was a good day for Wellington’s jumpers, with runners and throwers also in the medal mix at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field championships at Hamilton’s Porritt Stadium on Friday with two national titles to our high jumpers.
A team of 68 Wellington athletes are in Hamilton for the championships - but only eight of them are women, many whom made finals with two also winning national titles.
High Jumper Gerard Hickey got Wellington’s first gold medal of the champs with a 1.88m personal best, winning the U20 event on a count back. The overall winner from Tahiti, Teaue Teihotaata, cleared 1.93m.
After coming off a period of injury, Hickey’s first national title was pleasing. He was 3rd in the U18 event last year.
“It’s a relief - but I was hoping for 1.90m,” he said. “If I jumped like I did in the run-up (for the 1.88m height) I recon I could have done it,” he said.
However, Hickey never got a crack at 1.90m as the bar was raised to 1.93m, and the Tahitian athlete was the sole athlete to clear it.
As Hickey cleared 1.83m on his second attempt, he had to nail the next height on his first attempt to be assured of the title after others were unable to clear it first time.
“The first height is important for countback,” he said.
Josephine Reeves also won her U18 high jump, as she had hoped to, and will compete in the open category tomorrow. While the starting competition jump was 1.43m, Reeves entered at 1.62m (only the top four cleared 1.62m) and after a couple of jumps, both cleared at her first attempt, she was in gold medal position. After seven jumps – three of them on 1.70m, she had the title, clearing 1.73m.
“It’s a warm-up for tomorrow,” coach Mike Ritchie said.
Reeves, 16, with the title in the bag, then made three attempts at 1.77m – which would have been an outdoors personal best. She cleared 1.80m indoors earlier this year. She is looking forward to competing with the top jumpers tomorrow, including Wellington’s Keely O’Hagan, who has also cleared 1.80m this year.
“It’s going to be good competition tomorrow, if I jump like I did today – but hopefully better,” Reeves said.
Reeves said it was good having coach Mike Ritchie to offer advice. “It’s stuff you already know but he just brings it to your attention – it just helps you focus.”
Also among the medals was Daniel du Toit, who won the U18 3000m race walk, and Jack Beats who threw 46.68m in the men’s hammer for second, some distance behind winner Anthony Nobilo on 64.96. Roderick Solo also collected silver, in the U18 long jump, jumping 6.69m, as did para-athlete Libby Leikis in the 100m.
Sean Howe threw a personal best of 50.42m in the U18 discus on his 4th throw, with a broken toe and collected a silver medal. Zion Trigger Faitele threw 47.62m in the event won by Connor Farrell with 61.73m.
It was Howe’s second personal best since fellow thrower Nathaniel Sulupo inflicted the injury in an accident while having fun.
Perhaps the pair should have more fun next season – both got medals on the first day at this year’s nationals, with Sulupo placing third in the men’s discus event, throwing 50.16m.
Howe’s previous best was set earlier in the week at the McEvedy Shield.
The day concluded well with Cody Wilson heading off Nick Smith in the U20 100m, clocking 11.01 for second, with Smith on 11.10, 0.01 seconds ahead of fourth place and Yasheek Rosario fifth.
Phoebe McKnight easily defended her 5000m title in just under 17 minutes, about half a minute shy of her personal best, which she was disappointed with. But she still came half a minute ahead of second in her U20 age group.
She came third overall as the U20 and seniors were run together. She ran most of the race solo on third, so wasn’t pushed.
“I was a bit disappointed in my time,” she said. “It was hard to get into a rhythm – I quite enjoy being pushed. “
“But in the end, it’s just a race.”
However, this national meet is not her focus -she is only competing in the 5000m this year. It’s a big month for her, she is off to Australia on Wednesday to compete at nationals before heading off to the World Secondary Schools Cross Country champs in France two weeks later, with about five other New Zealand competitors.
She will be competing in the 1500m and the 5000m in Australia – last year she competed in the 3000m and would have easily won the 5000m had she focused on that event.
There will be a further wrap of events tomorrow, with the championships concluding on Sunday.