Above: Nick Willis at the 2015 New Zealand championships in Wellington. Photo Alan McDonald Macspeedfoto.
Nick Willis set a New Zealand 1500m record at the Herculis Diamond League meeting in Monaco this morning (NZ time).
Willis trimmed a quarter of a second off the time he set at the same meeting last year, recording 3:29:66, also an Oceania record for the metric mile distance.
In a very fast race, won by Kenyan Asbel Kiprop in 3:26.69, Willis avoided the breakneck speed of the first two laps, preferring to sit near the back of the field before making his way through the pack on the last lap, running 54.7 for the final 400 metres, faster than anyone else in the race and grabbing fifth place, the fastest ever time for 5th place in a 1500m race.
Speaking to Andrew Alderson of nzherald.co.nz Willis said "I couldn't have asked for a better race to run that sort of time. I slotted in near the back and ran dead even splits. I was still a bit disappointed to get behind a second wall of Kenyans behind Kiprop with 200m to go. I wasn't sure whether to go to lane three, or wait until the home straight and wait for a gap.
"It took a long time but I got through. I crossed the line not feeling the jubilation I thought after running a sub 3m 30s. I really wanted to finish in the top two. I was ready to drive more, but it's my fault for being slightly behind those guys.
"It's my best race time-wise so I must be in some of the best shape of my life. The blessing of this race on calendar for the world championships versus the London Olympics is that there are six weeks to go rather than three. I will go back to basics and rebuild at altitude from tomorrow.
"This will also give me a good seeding going into world championships [starting August 22 in Beijing], so the heats won't be stacked with too many good guys. It puts me in the top five or six in contention for medals."
Willis has raced sparingly in Europe this season, hoping to hit peak form for the IAAF World Championships, starting in Beijing on 22 August, where he has been selected for both the 1500m and 500m events.
A 1:46 800m time trial several days ago gave the Michigan based Kiwi confidence that he was in good form approaching the traditionally fast Monaco race where he broke through the 3:30 barrier for the first time last year.
Kiprop’s time makes him the third fastest ever over 1500m behind Hicham El Guerrouj (1998) and Bernard Lagat (2001).
The 32 year old from Lower Hutt is now the 24th fastest ever in the world over 1500, moving past such luminaries as Lord Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram, while the next Kiwi on the list, Sir John Walker sits at 118th .
At the same meeting Tom Walsh finished fourth in the Diamond League shot put with a throw of 20.73 behind a mighty heave 22.56 from Joe Kovacs (US).