Above: Hamish Gill leading in the 2x300m relay at Round Two of Nitro Athletics. Photo by Scott Barbour / Getty Images.
Two New Zealand sprinters starred at night two of the Coles Nitro Athletics series in Melbourne on Thursday.
Joseph Millar stunned the parochial Australian crowd with his personal best 10.30 performance in the 100m to back up his 150m victory on Saturday. He came agonizingly close to becoming only the third sub 10.30 sec New Zealander behind Augustine Nketia (10.11) and Chris Donaldson (10.17). His performance added to Zoe Hobbs third place in the women’s race gave NZ the maximum 100 points.
Will O’Neill also completed a double with his 200m Para handicap race win. This victory was closer than his 100m on Saturday but was still convincing. Running with some of the best form of his life it would be hard to bet against him achieving a treble in two days time over the 100m. The biggest challenge will be trying to make his grin bigger than he has achieved at the end of his last two races if he can continue this success. A strong finish from Anna Grimaldi wasn’t enough to lift her above third but this performance from the scratch mark beat her previous personal best time.
There were a number of big efforts on the night. Katherine Camp backed up after a strong 4 x 400m leg , to charge down the home straight after Hamish Gill’s outstanding first leg in the 2 x 300m mixed relay. The 4 x 400m team of Camp, Michael Cochrane, Tom Moulai and Mackenzie Keenan finished a creditable fourth in their race.
Jack Henry only had 15 minutes to recover from his 110m hurdles race, with most of that time spent practicing baton exchanges with his team mates. Despite this, he was involved in two very slick exchanges with teammates Joseph Millar and Olivia Eaton. The latter coming within a whisker of being bowled by a rampaging Usain Bolt while waiting for Henry to deliver the baton
The Team, lead off by Brooke Somerfield had the satisfaction of beating the much-vaunted Australian contingent whose second exchanged was botched to the point of them being disqualified after crossing the line.
Tim Cornish showed his fighting spirit in the exhausting Mile elimination race, securing a meritorious third placing with his strong end of lap finishes in the first three laps.
This mirrored the efforts of Esther Keown in the slightly confusing women’s race. New Zealander Camille Buscombe, running for the Bolt All-stars team, stepped off the track mistakenly thinking she had been eliminated at the end of the first lap, when it should have been the Japanese competitor. She then rejoined the race at the start of the following lap only to be pulled from the race with 150m to run thus allowing the opportunity for Keown to cross the line in her rightful third place.
Kelsey Berryman was a victim of her own success in the Long Jump.
Having jumped a Personal Best of 6.29m in round 3 the bonus-distance adjudicator chose a 6.35m target. This meant Berryman would have had to do another PB to score the extra points.
In the final reckoning this impacted on the Kiwi teams final placing, as a bonus points score would have moved the team into third place on the night.
Hayden Hall was only 1m shy of hitting the bonus point sector in his final throw which would have made up for a frustrating competition where he couldn’t quite hit the run up rhythm he was seeking.
Hannah Philpot was a surprise with her third placing in the pole vault. The young international debutant defeated athletes with far superior personal bests above her 3.90m. Her jump of 3.85m on the night will increase her confidence for the final competition.
The Nitro series will conclude on Saturday night with the third meeting in front of a sold out crowd. The New Zealand team is currently fourth equal, with Japan and England, and has strong motivation to finish on a high on Saturday night.
The Power Play, which was a random draw on nights 1 & 2, will revert to a draft format with NZ being third in order for choice of event behind Japan and England.
There will be strong temptation to pick one of the sprint events as the choice given the dominance that has been shown this week and the top form of the like of Millar, O’Neill and Berryman.
In the first two This New Zealand team has performed above expectations and reputations in this novel contest. Suffice to say that their remaining seasons performances will only be enhanced from this experience.