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NZ Track & Field Championships

Emerging sprint superstar Edward Osei-Nketia lit up the first session of the 2020 Jennian Home New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Christchurch by easing to a 10.49 clocking to head the qualifiers ahead of the senior men’s 100m final later today.

With event organisers switching the 100m to the back straight at a wind-buffeted Ngā Puna Wai – Osei-Nketia benefited from a 2.3m/s tailwind and looked a class apart, easing down to take heat two 0.19 clear of Hamish Gill (Auckland) in second.

The 18-year-old sprint prodigy, who last year featured for New Zealand at the Doha World Championships, has suffered a couple of hiccups during the domestic campaign but following the morning heats looks in good shape to successfully defend his national senior men’s 100m title in the final, which takes place later today at 8pm.

In heat one, rising teenage talent Tiaan Whelpton (Christchurch) claimed top spot in heat one in a time of 10.61 (3.3m/s) from Jordan Bolland (10.77), the 2019 senior 200m champion.

James Guthrie-Croft eased to a comfortable win in heat three, the Aucklander stopping the clock in 10.77 (0.6m/s).

Defending champion Zoe Hobbs (Auckland) is on track to retain her senior women’s 100m title after leading the qualifiers from the morning heats with a wind-assisted but still impressive clocking of 11.46.

Benefiting from a whopping 4.8m/s tailwind, Hobbs, a 2019 World Championship representative, quickly established control of heat one before gently squeezing on the brakes to finish 0.14 clear of Otago’s Rosie Elliott to advance to the final.

In a closely-fought heat two, Brooke Somerfield (Waikato BOP), the 2019 bronze medallist, edged to victory in 11.68 (+3.9m/s) with Livvy Wilson (Auckland) 0.04 further back in second. Georgia Hulls (Hawkes Bay) in 11.73 also advanced to take her place in the eagerly-awaited final scheduled for 7.50pm.

Portia Bing secured a hat-trick of senior women’s 400m hurdles titles with a quality display given the challenging conditions.

The New Zealand record-holder and 2019 World Championship representative clocked a time of 57.69 and although, understandably, given the high winds she was some way shy of the Olympic qualification distance of 55.40, Bing was encouraged by the performance.

“It is always super-amazing to win a national title,” explains Bing. “Every privilege comes with a sacrifice and unfortunately the one thing we sometimes sacrifice in New Zealand is the weather.

“It is actually the first time prior to the (2019) World Championships I’ve been close to nailing it and getting in a comfortable position. In the second half of the race that wind was something else. It was a crosswind which makes it hard to navigate the hurdles.”

In a repeat of the same finishing order from the 2019 nationals MacKenzie Jeffries (Canterbury) snagged silver in 1:00.99 ahead of Celine Pearn (Auckland) 1:03.24.

Michael Cochrane grabbed his maiden national senior 400m hurdles title – having previously won three silver medals in the discipline – in a time of 55.15. The Waikato Bay of Plenty athlete who represented New Zealand at the 2015 World Championships is a two-time former national 110m hurdles champion. Teenager Daniel Parkes of Australia claimed second in 56.22.

Two-time Olympian Quentin Rew survived the vicious winds to regain the national 3000m race walk title for the first time in nine years in 11:58:24.

Rew, 35, was never likely to threaten his national record of 11:15.20 facing such brutally tough conditions, but was nonetheless satisfied with his display.

“You still need to go out with intent and adapt your technique to the wind,” he says. “You have to adjust your stride length but the wind makes it impossible to get into a good rhythm.

“Training has been going well and I hoping to have a decent crack at the New Zealand record. Once the goal time had gone, it was then just a case of holding off the young whippersnappers behind.”

One of the “young whippersnappers” Daniel Du Toit impressed in the challenging conditions to take the men’s under-18 crown in 12:55.80.

Commonwealth silver medallist Alana Barber grabbed her third national senior 3000m race walk title with an assured display.

The 32-year-old Aucklander, whose specialist distance is the 20km, recorded 13:16:91 and said: “I like feeling light, but today I felt as light as feather and I thought I might be blown away in the wind. The final 80m down the home straight the wind was blowing strongly and had to work through it.

“I was hoping to beat Daniel (Du Toit) one of the junior race walkers, I was eying him up but he beat me by about 100m.”

The 2019 champion Laura Langley (Hawkes Bay) 14:09:21 took silver with former gold medallist Courtney Ruske (Canterbury) in bronze in 14:54:47.

Both Rew and Barber will return to compete in the 10,000m race walks on Sunday.

Imogen Ayris regained the senior national women’s pole vault title on countback from training partner Olivia McTaggart.

The Auckland duo both cleared 4.25m at the first time of asking – quite a feat given the powerful crosswinds – but Ayris, 19, was awarded gold by virtue of a first time clearance at 4.15m.

Briana Stephenson (Auckland) sailed out to a personal best of 6.08m to strike gold and claim her maiden senior women’s long jump title. Showing impressive composure in the fierce winds, Stephenson finished clear of Ashleigh Bennett (Taranaki) 5.75m in silver with teenager Kayla Goodwin (Waikato) in bronze just 1cm behind.

Goodwin had earlier claimed victory in the women’s under-20 triple jump taking gold with a mighty 13.08m and also added two centimetres to her New Zealand U19 record.

Her 13.08m effort had the benefit of a 3.2m/s tailwind – above the limit of 2m/s for record purposes. She also unleashed efforts of 12.89m and 12.85m both at 2.1m/s but her fourth round jump of 12.76m (1.9m/s) bettered her national record. Goodwin missed out on a World U20 qualification mark of 12.90m but showed enough with her performance today that she is capable of achieving the distance.

New Zealand’s enviable depth in the throws was further illustrated by high-class throwing in the women’s under-20 discus. Kaia Tupu-South (Auckland) fired the 1kg discus out to a near four-metre PB of 53.69m to strike gold. Her fellow Aucklander Savannah Scheen also clad a further 75cm on to her PB with a 52.75m effort to take silver. Both athletes had already secured the World U20 Championships qualification mark prior to nationals and Tupu-South also came within touching distance of Dame Valerie Adams’ national under-18 record mark of 54.34m.

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