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Hobbs Makes Winning Start To The Year At Potts Classic

Zoe Hobbs. Photo credit: Mark Roberts

Sprint superstar Zoe Hobbs opened her 2024 campaign in style by scorching to victory in 11.39 (-0.7m/s) in the women’s 100m final to light up the 25th anniversary edition of the Potts Track & Field Classic in Hastings.

The 26-year-old, who last year became the first woman in Oceania to run a sub-11-second 100m mark, had earlier cruised to top spot in the heats in a time of 11.24 (+1.9m/s) and was similarly dominate in the final.

Making her blistering trademark start she quickly bolted to the front and was unstoppable as she blasted to the top of the podium to claim her seventh 100m victory at the meet. Australian challenger Bree Masters finished strongly to take second in 11.59 with New Zealand 200m record-holder Rosie Elliott third in 11.77.

Hobbs said: “It is great to be here in Hawke’s Bay for the first race of the season and nice to kick off a big year with the Potts Classic. My focus coming into today was to get those first races under my belt and to make it feel as smooth and relaxed as I could. I head overseas shortly with World Indoors in the mix, then I’ll be back to New Zealand for nationals, which I’m really looking forward to.”

James Preston produced a dazzling early season performance to record a stunning meet record mark of 1:45.89 on his way to a fourth successive victory in the Allan Potts Memorial 800m.

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As a further measure of the quality of the performance it was by some margin the fastest time Preston had ever recorded in New Zealand and shattered the previous meet record by more than two seconds.

Beautifully paced by Sam Tanner through 400m in 51 seconds, once the 3:31 1500m runner peeled away at around 600m it was over to a majestic Preston to bring it home in style.

Behind, Thomas Cowan (North Harbour Bays) edged fellow U20 star James Ford (Takapuna) by 0.03, recording 1:51.30. The teenage duo have already both secured performance standard times in the 800m for the 2024 World U20 Championships in Lima, Peru later this year.

A delighted Preston, who ran the fourth fastest 800m time of his career, said: “In terms of what I was looking for, it was a good performance. It was a pretty hot pace for an opener, but I guess we want to try and run as fast as we can for the season and to run fast, you need pretty quick splits through the 400m and the 600m. To be able to hit those splits and hold on is really positive.”

Preston is taking the rest of his domestic season “week by week” but he is looking at competing next month in Adelaide and Melbourne. The Olympic entry standard mark for the men’s 800m is 1:44.70.

The marquee Sylivia Potts Memorial 800m served up a shock as Laura Nagel revealed her extraordinary versatility to dethrone Holly Manning courtesy of a near three second PB of 2:05.37. Nagel, the national 1500m, 3000m and 5000m champion, who originally hails from Napier, bided her time when Manning and Stella Pearless (North Harbour) opted to follow a rapid pace set by pacemaker Lucy Jacobs.

However, Nagel, who earlier this month posted a 3000m PB of 8:59.34, timed her challenge to perfection to kick past Manning – another Hawke’s Bay raised athlete – to a memorable win. Manning had to settle for second in 2:06.29 with Pearless third – a further 0.19 back. The fast-finishing Boh Ritchie, 16, in fourth recorded a stunning New Zealand U17 record of 2:06.51 and also secured a performance standard mark for the World U20 Championships.

World Championship finalist Connor Bell backed up his outstanding display at the Pre-Potts Classic just five days earlier to set a meet record mark of 64.78 en route to victory in the men’s discus.

Bell, who registered 65.39m at the Pre-Potts event on Tuesday could not quite match that display today but a 64.78m effort in round six repelled the strong challenge of French athlete Tom Reux – who achieved a PB of 58.72m for second.

The 22-year-old Aucklander led with an opening round 60.69m and he extended his advantage with a 61.80m toss in round two. Yet Bell saved his best until last to wrap up a convincing win.

“It has been a big week for me in Hastings and I was feeling toast today and bearing in mind how I’m feeling I’m super happy to throw 64.78m,” said Bell, who described conditions as pretty good but with a less consistent wind than Tuesday. “It is now back into the trenches next week to prepare for Adelaide and Melbourne. Otherwise, I’m super happy with my performance on Tuesday and today. Both were really solid distances. I have lots to look forward to.”

Tokyo Olympian and Oceania record-holder Lauren Bruce produced another encouraging early season performance to clinch a comprehensive victory in the women’s hammer. Bruce, who earlier this month breached the 70m line with a 70.15m effort in Brisbane, unleashed a solid series at Mitre 10 Park with her best effort of 68.21m backed up with a 67.70m in round four and 67.96m in the final stanza. The Olympic entry standard mark the Australian-based athlete is chasing is 74.00m. Behind, Elizabeth Hewitt (Mana) took second (54.36m) with teenager Nadja Kumerich (North Harbour Bays) registering a sizeable PB with a best of 52.83m.

“Today was pretty consistent with what I’ve done over the past few weeks, so it was on par with that,” said Bruce. Unfortunately, the ones I really got on today landed in the cage I didn’t get to see the benefits of that.”

Bruce, who hails from Timaru returns to Melbourne to return to training in preparation for her next planned competition at the ITM in Christchurch on 24 February.

Anthony Nobilo produced the performance of his life to win a high-class men’s hammer in a meet record and PB of 69.72m to defeat the challenge of Australian Timothy Heyes. Nobilo added 2.22m to his meet record set 12 months ago and surpassed his previous lifetime best by 77cm courtesy of an outstanding series. Enjoying excellent conditions, Nobilo opened with a new PB and meet record of 69.47m before following up in round two with a 68.60m effort. He maintained his consistency in rounds three (67.93m) and round four (68.77m) before delivering his best of his career in the penultimate round. Heyes, with a lifetime best of 68.31m, posted a best of the day with 65.83m.

Nobilo, 24, a five-time national champion, said: “I’m ecstatic. The main thing today I was following the process rather than looking for the outcome.”

Now targeting a 70m+ throw his next planned competition is the Sola Power Thowers Meet on 3 February followed by the Porritt Classic in Hamilton on 10 February.

On a great day for New Zealand throwers, home favourite Nick Palmer powered the 7.26kg metal orb out to a PB of 19.76m to bank victory in the men’s shot. The 23-year-old Hastings AC athlete unleashed the best throw of his career in the sixth round – a distance which exceeded his previous best by 34cm - and advances him to fifth on the all-time New Zealand lists. Liam Ngchok-Wulf (Papakura) with a best of 16.65m placed second.

World Para Athletics 200m T36 gold medallist and 100m T36 silver medallist Danielle Aitchison executed a pair of impressive early season performances. The Waikato sprinter posted a blistering 28.37 in the 200m place fourth in the women’s 200m B race – 0.13 quicker than her national record. However, with a windspeed of +3.1m/s the time is not legal for record purposes. Aitchison later returned to win the women’s Para 100m in 13.95 (+1.2m/s) within 0.27 of her national record.

Meanwhile, the 2023 World Para Athletics 200m T64 bronze medallist Mitch Joynt looked good as he took out the men’s Para 100m in 11.96 (+1.5m/s) – 0.10 shy of his national record time. Earlier in his favoured 200m, Mitch placed seventh in the men’s 200m B race, completing the half-lap distance in 23.33 (+2.9m/s) within one hundredth of his national record mark.

Behind Joynt in the men’s Para 100m, Joe Smith (T37), a 2023 World Para Athletics Championships representative, finished second in 12.11 – within 0.03 of his PB. Jaxon Woolley in third set a national T38 100m record in 12.18.

Lex Revell-Lewis (Waitakere) was rewarded for his aggressive approach to post a meet record and PB of 47.34 as he dominated the men’s 400m. The national champion over the one-lap distance quickly caught the stagger on Fergus McLeay (Hill City) and simply ran away from the opposition to shave 0.02 from his previous PB. McLeay, the 2023 national 400m silver medallist, grabbed second in 49.05 with Jackson Rogers (Aspiring Athletics) in third (50.20).

Portia Bing executed a composed performance to take out a commanding victory in the women’s 400m. Bing, a World Championship and Commonwealth Games representative in the 400m hurdles, finished strongly over the final 150m to complete a comprehensive win in 53.76 ahead of North Harbour Bays duo Isabel Neal (55.06) and Camryn Smart (55.31).

In the field, Natalia Rankin-Chitar (Papatoetoe) added 1cm to her lifetime best to win the women’s shot with 15.57m. Overseas athletes took out the respective pole vault competitions as Japanese record-holder Misaki Morota secured the women’s vault with a best of 4.40m while England’s Charlie Myers cleared 5.42m to grab the top spot in the men’s vault.

In the men’s sprints – Cody Wilson (Mana) edged a tight battle in the men’s 100m of 10.71 (-1.9m/s) from Rylan Noome (10.79). Hayato Yoneto (Remarkable Runners) in 21.54 (+3.6m/s) edged Fergus McLeay (Hill City) by 0.07 in the men’s 200m A race.

New Zealand U20 mile titles were on the line at Mitre 10 Park with a blistering last lap by Charo Heijnen (Athletics Tauranga) propelling her to the women’s title in a PB of 5:01.05 – 1.03 seconds ahead of Poppy Martin (Lake City). Heijnen’s club-mate Ella Smart took bronze courtesy of a PB of 5:05.84.

An electric finish from James McLeay propelled the St Paul’s Harrier to the men’s national U20 title in a PB of 4:07.84. Silver and bronze were bagged by Athletics Tauranga duo Elliott Pugh (4.08.13) and Callum Murray (4:08.53), respectively, both of whom also posted PBs.

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