The lure of qualifying performance for the World Championships as well as collecting a coveted national title will be on the minds of a number of the leading athletes competing at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field Championships at Porritt Stadium, Hamilton this weekend.
The current fastest man in New Zealand Joseph Millar will be after favourable conditions as he sets out win the national sprint double he last held in 2014 having also captured the double in the preceding two years.
The 24 year old who competed at the 2009 World Youth and the 2010 World Junior Championships is currently riding a crest of a wave having clocked personal bests in both the 100m and 200m in the last two weeks.
Millar is knocking on the door of the selection times of 10.12 for 100m and 20.44 for 200m for the World Championships in London in August.
Defending 100m champion Matthew Wyatt and 2015 champion Kodi Harman will line up in the 100m along with Hamish Gill, Zac Topping and Scott Walker. Topping will be back in action against Millar in the 200m with Will Smart also in medal contention. Wyatt will also be defending his long jump title against Gill who won at the Potts Classic in January with a career best of 7.43m. Gill also had a wind assisted 7.44m at the Auckland championships.
Joshua Hawkins will be looking for his good form this season to continue in the 110m hurdles on the Porritt track, following his New Zealand resident record of 13.98 at the Porritt Classic last month. The A standard for the World Championships is 13.48. It will be his third consecutive title if successful.
Rio Olympic Games bronze medallists Eliza McCartney and Tom Walsh will provide excitement to the Sunday afternoon of competition. Both have easily secured qualifying performances for London in August, McCartney clearing 4.82m in the pole vault and Walsh out to 21.80m in the shot put at the Auckland Track Challenge last month.
McCartney should make it three years in a row and Walsh will chalk up his eighth year in a row and his ninth national title having won the discus throw in 2013. Also in the shot put is Rio Olympian Jacko Gill and Ryan Ballantyne.
Sunday will also feature the men’s javelin throw with the up and coming Ben Langton-Burnell who threw out over 80 metres for the first time at last month’s Porritt Classic. The three times former junior champion and runner up to Stuart Farquhar for the last four years may well finally get his place as number one on the podium. Semi-retired, since competing at the Rio Olympic Games, Farquhar, 16 times national champion, has entered along with Alex Wood who had a recent PB of 70.63m.
Zoe Hobbs like Millar will be after the women’s sprint double. The previous youth champion and last year’s junior champion has rounded out nicely a week out from the championships with times of 11.68 for 100m and 24.14 over 200m in Canberra. Rochelle Coster will be defending her 100m title and also eying the title will be 2015 champion Kelsey Berryman, 2013 champion Mariah Ririnui and 2014 champion Fiona Morrison.
Coster and Morrison will also go head to head in the 100m hurdles won last year by Morrison in a resident record of 13.21. Coster shares the national record of 13.10 with Andrea Miller. Berryman will be defending her long jump title against twice champion Ririnui.
The women’s 1500m final on Sunday afternoon should produce a tense finish with four times champion Nikki Hamblin, defending champion Angie Petty, Katherine Camp, Camille Buscomb, Laura Nagel, Rosa Flanagan and Esther Keown all vying for the title. Rio Olympian Petty and Camp will have come from an equally interesting challenge the previous day in the 800m final.
Petty will be aiming for her sixth 800m crown in a row while Camp with two wins over Petty this season will be out to improve on her personal best of 2:02.70 in Dublin last July. Petty with a best of 1:59.06 comes into the race with a win in the Victorian championships two weeks ago having run 2:02.75 in the heats. Making the 800m final extremely competitive will be Katrina Anderson who ran a PB 2:05.91 at the Potts Classic and Australian based Ellen Schaef representing Wellington Harrier Athletic who has a best of 2:05.30 from the Hunter Classic in January.
Flanagan will battle with national cross country and road champion and current 3000m champion Nagel and half marathon champion Olivia Burne in the 5000m and she is also down for her third 3000m steeplechase title.
Brad Mathas should make it six years in a row in the 800m. Mathas has been racing in Australia this season following a successful European campaign last winter. He recently lowered his best time to 1:46.97 in Canberra last month and last week was second in Summer of Aths GP in Canberra. The world championships A standard is 1:45.90 and the B 1:46.30.
Eric Speakman and Joshua Ledger should battle out the minor medals in the 800m while Speakman will return to the track the next day with the blue riband 1500m title firmly in his sights. Speakman was second in the junior championship in 2010 and was second to Hamish Carson in the recent national 3000m championship. He has a best of 3:37.44 in Canada last May. Ben Moynihan second to Carson last year and Michael Vercoe-Curtis should be in with a chance of a medal. Carson five times 1500m champion is not entered.
Michael Gutry, Quin Hartley and Thomas Smith will feature in the 400m, Cameron French should have an easy passage for his third 400m hurdles title with a sub 50 seconds time at the back of his mind. Megan Kikuchi and Jamie Sowter will continue their rivalry from the Auckland championships for the women’s 400m title.
National road champion Daniel Balchin is set to claim a difficult double, the 5000m in Friday evening and the steeplechase on Sunday. He will be going for his fourth 3000m steeplechase title chased by former youth and junior champion Jack Beaumont and Harry Burnard. In the 5000m
Balchin who set a PB of 13:56.49 at the Auckland Track Challenge faces four time 10,000m champion Aaron Pulford, half marathon champion Oska Baynes who set a PB 14:30.79 in the Canterbury champs, Peter Wheeler, national cross country champion Jono Jackson, Sean Eustace and Rio Olympic Games triathlete Ryan Sissons who was second in the 5000m at the 2012 championships.
Graeme Jones (43), six times a national walking champion, is down to compete in the 3000m race walk and the 20km road walk where Jonathon Lord will be defending his title. Laura Nagel should complete the 3000m/20km double in the women’s walks. Rozie Robinson will be defending her 3000m rack walk title.
Matthew Bloxham who unseated 20 times national hammer throw champion Philip Jensen in Wellington in 2015 will be throwing for his third straight title against Australian based Warren Button and Otago’s Todd Bates.
Marshall Hall who went over 60 metres for the first time in the discus throw last month should make it title number eight in the discus. Alexander Parkinson runner up to Marshall for the last two years impressed at last month’s Porritt Classic with a winning personal best of 56.79m.
Nick Southgate who has a best of 5.47m should make it title number five in the pole vault. Hamish Kerr who was over the bar at a personal best of 2.17m at the Porritt Classic will be out to regain the high jump title won in 2015. William Crayford will be seeking his eighth high jump title and national decathlon champion Max Attwell has an opportunity to medal in the event. Alexandra Hyland junior champion last year with 1.77m and national junior heptathlon champion should win the senior high jump.
Brother and sister Scott and Anna Thomson have every chance of making it a family double in the triple jump. Their father Richard was the New Zealand shot put champion in 1996. Scott heads the rankings this season with 14.67m while defending champion Anna was out to 12.34m in the Wellington championships and a wind assisted 12.47m during the recent New Zealand masters championships in Nelson.
A previous notable brother-sister double in the same event at the same championships was Clem and Dorothea Parker of Waikato in the 100 yards at the 1950 championships in Napier.
Ebuka Okpala with 14.33m this season will be defending his title, and David Van Den Bogaard with a PB of 14.20m in the Auckland championships could claim a podium placing. Anna’s challengers will be Atipa Mabonga and Jenni Scott.
Mackenzie Keenan the 2015 champion will line up against the defending champion Anna Percy in the 400m hurdles. Percy won in a PB 60.44 at the Capital Classic and Keenan went 59.23 in Canberra last weekend.
With Dame Valerie Adams not competing, Maddison-Lee Wesche with a PB of 15.26m at the Capital Classic has a chance to step into the circle for the women’s shot put title. Meanwhile in the discus throw Siositina Hakeai will be throwing for her sixth straight title. It will be an interesting six rounds with Te Rina Keenan having thrown three metres further this year with 57.55m in Hamilton last month.
Nicole Bradley with her recent form should win her fourth hammer title ahead of Lauren Bruce. Tori Peeters will also be throwing in the javelin for her fourth title.
In the under 18 women, interest will centre on Hannah O’Connor as she goes for three titles, the 3000m, 2000m steeplechase and the 1500m. Her clash with Charli Miller in the steeplechase could well result in a fresh New Zealand under 17 record. The record stands at 6:52.72 and O’Connor recently ran 6:35.69 in a mixed race in Wanganui and Miller has recorded 6:56.08 this season.
The clash of Georgia Hulls and Lucy Sheat in the under 20 100m and 200m will be closely watched as well as the performance of 15 year old Dominic Overend in the under 18 200m and long jump where he was out to a wind assisted 6.89m at the Auckland championships. Just turned 17, James Guthrie-Croft is expected to dominate the under 18 sprints.
A total of 595 athletes have entered the largest number since the national championships in Christchurch in 2010. Auckland have 157 entered, Waikato Bay of Plenty 103, Canterbury 73 and Wellington 60.
The Jennian Homes NZ Track & Field Championships with Hamilton City Council as a Principal Partner get under way at Hamilton’s Porritt Stadium on Friday 17 March and conclude on Sunday 19 March.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent