Wellington scores a 400m medal-fest at Nationals
By Dave Crampton
It was a 400m burst of yellow – together and individually - on day two of the Jennian Homes National Track and Field champs in Hamilton, with no fewer than six medals in individual 400m events and also two Wellington placings in the 400m medley (4x 100m) relays.
Last year five Wellington athletes medalled in 800m events. This year every Wellington athlete who made an individual final in a 400m event medalled or got a NZ record.
All individual races were run in personal best times, and throughout all divisions - U18, U20, senior and para divisions. Para-athlete Libby Leikis also got a New Zealand record in her F37 classification, clocking 77.80 seconds – a two second personal best.
Mikael Starzynski got the ball rolling, heading into the final as top qualifier and winning in 49.80 seconds in the U18 event, achieving his long-held goal of getting under the 50 second barrier.
“I`ve been waiting two years to go under 50 seconds, I’ve finally broken that,” he said after the race. “I set out to do that and I`m glad I did.”
“It must have been the endorphins.”
It was a big improvement on last year, where he was out of the medals.
Libby Leikis followed in the very next race, slashing her own New Zealand para record by two seconds, clocking 77.80 seconds. It was tough, she had a difficult start, but she gave it everything down the home straight, as she was aiming to break that record.
“I got to the 100m (to go) and my legs were gone – but it was the best I`ve ever done,” she said. “I had a good first 200m - I thought it was the best 200m I’ve ever done in a 400m.”
It was also big personal best for Leikis, having previously bettered her time by one second.
Rowan Blaikie followed in the U20 event clocking 49.81 seconds for third place – just 0.01 behind Starzynski’s time.
The senior men’s event was a sea of yellow with all three Wellington athletes medalling in personal best times. Alex Haye clocked 47.63 seconds with Josh Ledger just behind. Rounding up the trio was Jacob Matson in 48.08 seconds.
It was Haye’s first senior national title. He enjoyed racing his Wellington mates, but he knows he can do better.
“I should have gone faster - I just have to work harder down the back straight,” he said.
Had Ledger gone 0.05 seconds faster he would have won. He headed off Haye in the recent Potts Classics but is ordinarily an 800m athlete.
“I did this as a bit of speed work - you’ve got to run a fast 400m if you want to run a fast 800m,” he said.
Third-placed Matson has gone the other direction – moving up from the sprints in his first serious 400m event. He missed nationals last year but say he will be ‘definitely’ going back next year – probably to do the 400m again.
“It’s a new event, new territory - I haven’t had a proper focus on that until this season,” he said.
While Haye is a sprinter, Ledger is going short – but Matson is going for longer distances.
“The 400m is where I am at now. I`ve always preferred the 200m over the 100m,” he said.
“It was a steep learning curve, but I can’t really complain – a first real crack at it and pb - I would have liked to go out and win it.”
Aggregating all men’s 400m times would have had Blaikie and Starzynski in the top eight overall.
In the 4x100m relay events Wellington entered -the men’s U18 and U20 – both were placed third.