Shot put titan Tom Walsh provided the highlight in a memorable night for Kiwi athletes as three national records tumbled at the Melbourne World Challenge.
Walsh, who dominated the competition from his first throw left his best until last and he unleashed a mighty heave of 21.37m to better his previous national record mark by 0.11m set when winning bronze at the 2014 World Indoor Championships in Poland.
New Zealand – and more specifically the South Island - enjoyed more throwing success at the Lakeside Stadium as Tori Peeters bettered her previous national record by a further 0.69m to place sixth in a world-class women's javelin.
Meanwhile, Rosa Flanagan maintained her outstanding progress by slashing almost seven seconds from her national under-20 record in the women's 3000m steeplechase to place fourth in 9:41.42 and earn the additional bonus of dipping under the World Championship B qualification standard.
Yet it was Walsh's performance that perhaps most impressed, as the 23-year-old from Timaru not only set a national record he also set a world leading outdoor mark for 2015 (note, American Ryan Whiting has thrown 21.80m indoors this year).
He started the competition scratchily with an opening round throw of 20.50m followed by a foul, a 20.52m effort in round three and next recording 20.15m. In round five he began to show better form with a 20.70m throw before finally nailing one with his sixth and final attempt - of not only the competition but his Australasian season.
“My timing was slightly off for the first five rounds, which has pretty much been the story of my season,” he explains. “But I did a big warm up throw, which felt good so I knew the throw was in the tank. In the sixth round I managed to line one up. I have been getting out of line and throwing out to the right so it was good to get one over to the left (side) and get the power through it.
“My confidence was a little low, not as high as it was leading into Melbourne last year (when Walsh set a then outdoor PB of 21.16m) when I felt I could just pop one out when I wanted. This gives me a big confidence boost going into the European/American season.”
Australian Damian Birkinhead finished second with a personal best of 20.23m. Walsh's next planned competition is at the Eugene Diamond League meeting on May 29-30.
Peeters made another advance in her burgeoning career by three times throwing in advance of her previous national record mark of 54.45m set when winning the 2014 New Zealand title. The 20-year-old member of Taieri Athletics Club hurled the spear out to 55.14m in round three and reinforced her current form with a 55.03m effort in round four and 54.63m in round six.
Her performance was good enough to secure sixth in a high-class competition in which South African Sunette Viljoen reversed the one-two from last year's Commonwealth Games pipping her rival Australian Kim Mickle by 0.05m with a world leading mark of 66.62m.
Flanagan was also in record breaking mood as she too benefited from competing against high-class opposition in the women's steeplechase. The 19-year-old Cantabrian stopped the clock in fourth in 9:41.42 – to hack 6.97 off her previous national under-20 mark – and also gain a qualification mark for the August's World Championships in Beijing (the qualification mark is 9:44.00). The race was secured by a world leading mark of 9:31.03 by Australian Madeline Heiner, the fourth place finisher at last year's Commonwealth Games.
“I'm rapt, it is so good to be running with the older girls, it really helps for the first four or five laps when you have to hang on to those girls. It started to string out with two laps or three to go and I just tried to hold on. I gave everything I had and I'm glad it turned out successfully. To get the World Championship qualifier is so exciting. Now I've just got to talk to my coach (Maria Hassan) to talk about my plans for the (European) season.”
Hassan's athletes enjoyed a successful meeting as Angie Petty enjoyed a welcome return to form over the metric mile distance to place second in a close-run women's 1500m.
Petty, the New Zealand 800m champion, made a positive move following the withdrawal of the pacemaker to lead the pack through the first two laps before losing her position on lap three and slipped back to eighth.
Yet in a blistering final lap the 23-year-old Cantabrian reeled in all bar one of her rivals as she stopped the clock in 4:12.59 just 0.02 behind race winner Zoe Buckman of Australia, the 2013 World Championship finalist.
“It's all coming together and that is thanks to Maria,” explains Angie, who produced her third quickest 1500m time of her career just 0.87 shy of her PB set in 2013.“I got boxed in on lap three but thankfully the door opened. I'm really happy.”
After fouls in the first three rounds New Zealand record holder Nneka Okpala gradually found her range to place second in the women's triple jump courtesy of a sixth round effort of 13.25m.
Kiwi Rochelle Coster produced a solid time of 13.78 to place third in the women's 100m hurdles behind Olympic and Commonwealth champion Sally Pearson who stopped the clock in 12.93.
New Zealand champion Keeley O'Hagan matched her personal best of 1.84m when landing the national title two weeks ago to place second in the women's high jump behind Australian Hannah Joye (1.86m). O'Hagan's countrywoman Liz Lamb was fourth with 1.82m.
A wind-assisted sixth round leap of 7.59m earned Kiwi Matthew Wyatt fourth in the men's long jump behind Aussie Angus Gould (7.87m). New Zealand's Malcolm Hicks placed tenth in the men's 5000m in 13:55.79.
Shot Put: 1 Tom Walsh 21.37 NZL national & Oceania record. No 1 in world 2015.
Long Jump: 4 Matthew Wyatt 7.59 (+2.4).
5000m: 10 Malcolm Hicks 13:55.79.
1500m: 2 Angie Petty 4.12.59.
Triple Jump: 2 Nneka Okpala 13.25 (+0.8).
High Jump: 2 Keeley O’Hagan 1.84, 4 Elizabeth Lamb 1.82.
100m hurdles: 3 Rochelle Coster 13.78 (+0.3).
3000m Steeplechase: 4 Rosa Flanagan 9.41.42. NZL U20 national record, 5 Sarah McSweeney 10:37.71.
Javelin: 6 Tori Peeters 55.14 NZL national record.