New Zealand has finished fifth at the famous Chiba International Ekiden Relay in Japan.
Led by outstanding runs on the first and fifth legs by Jake and Zane Robertson, the six-person team had its highest place finish in the eight years since the format was changed to a mixed team in 2007.
It represented an improvement of one place on last year, finishing ahead of the USA, which prevailed over the Kiwis in 2013.
Jake Robertson ran at the front of the first 5km leg, swapping the lead with the Kenyan, Japanese, Russian and Australian runners and passed over the sash - used rather than a baton, in second place. He was just one second behind Australia, but ahead of some of the more fancied teams, handing over to 2010 Commonwealth Games medallist Nikki Hamblin for the second 5km leg. Robertson’s time of 13:34 gave the Kiwi team an excellent start.
Hamblin maintained the momentum, running the fourth fastest time for the second leg, recording 15:34 in third equal place with Canada, just behind Russia and Japan. She handed over to Callan Moody for the third leg of 10km.
Moody slipped a few places during his leg and handed over to Rosa Flanagan in eighth place, running 30.23.
Flanagan ran the seventh fastest time for her leg with 16:30 for 5km and picked up one place before dropping back one to hand over in eighth.
Zane Robertson, Glasgow Commonwealth Games 5000 bronze medallist and star of the team in the 2013 relay, had a lot of work to do and quickly made up ground on the teams ahead of him to run a very quick time of 28:22, lifting the New Zealanders to fifth place with one leg remaining. Robertson’s time was the second fastest of all the teams.
It remained for Camille Buscomb to maintain the team’s fifth position which she did, recording 24:37 for the 7.195 distance.
The New Zealand team was very satisfied with their performance, finishing just 1:44 behind third place and heading off teams of the quality of USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and France.
Daniel Balchin, the men’s back-up runner finished fourth in the 5000m track race for the team reserves, recording a 14:06 while Gabrielle Gray placed seventh in the women’s reserve race in 17.06, a new personal best.
1 Japan 2:05:53
2 Kenya 2:06:29
3 Japan Universities 2:07.16
4 Russia 2:07:42
5 New Zealand 2:09:00
6 USA 2:09:13
7 Canada 2:09:28
8 Australia 2:10:16
9 Germany 2:13:12
10 Chiba 2:13:16
11 France 2:13:35
12 Estonia 2:16.49
13 China 2:19.56
New Zealand team times
Jake Robertson 5km 13:34 2nd
Nikki Hamblin 5km 15:34 4th
Callan Moody 10km 30:23 11th
Rosa Flanagan 5km 16:30 7th
Zane Robertson 10km 28:22 2nd
Camille Buscomb 7.195km 24:37 8th
Reserve 5000m race
Daniel Balchin 14:06 4th
Gabrielle Gray 17:06 7th