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Laura Nagel Storms To Record-breaking Road Mile Success In Rotorua

Laura Nagel |  Credit: Alisha Lovrich

Nagel secures national road mile title with record-breaking display

Laura Nagel stormed to a thrilling victory from training partner Brigid Dennehy to be crowned national senior women’s road mile champion in a national record time of 4:46.78 at the Novotel Lakefront Mile in Rotorua.

On a pumping night on the closed-circuit course, Nagel dethroned Dennehy of her title won 12 months ago unleashing a blistering late-finish to win by a margin 0.53 seconds. In close pursuit, national 1500m and mile champion on the track Rebekah Greene (Hill City) in close pursuit took out bronze in 4:48.35.

Starting and finishing on Tutanekai Street the two-and-a-half lap course was always likely to serve up a cracking finale to a compelling night of mile action and so it proved.

The three key protagonists were in close order at the front for much of the race but in was Nagel, the 2023 national 1500m, 3000m and 5000m champion, who produced the winning kick over the final 50m to blast to glory.

“It was a very weird race because none of us have raced over the past four weeks,” said Nagel, who bettered the previous national record time of 5:00.5 set by Dennehy at the 2023 national road mile championships. “I didn’t know what I was doing, the bends are not my strong point. But Brigid and I train together, I’ve got a kick, she’s got a kick, and it was who had it on the day.”

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After enjoying an outstanding early phase to the track season in which the North Harbour Bays athlete set a flurry of PB’s, Nagel was disappointed with how the campaign petered out but the 32-year-old was lifted by her performance today.

“It was a step in the right direction. It was cool to set a national record. It is always hard to win a national title, I’ve won a few and they are all different. It was an awesome event and I hope it was entertaining. I like to think all my races are cool to watch.”

Nagel now competes in the Runway 5 here on Saturday before moving on to the Oceania Championships in Fiji in early June where she hopes to regain the 1500m title she remarkably last won 16 years ago. She then plans to compete in Europe and potentially North America where she is aiming for more PB’s

A stunning finish around the final half lap propelled Benjamin Wall from a distant third to a stunning gold medal in the senior men’s road mile championship. The 22-year-old Feilding Moa Harrier was ten metres off the scorching pace set by his club-mate George Varney and Matt Arnold of North Harbour Bays leading into the final lap but entering the final bend Wall, a 4:03.19 track miler at his best, held a clear lead as he romped to victory in 4:19.88 to claim a first national senior medal.

The fast-finishing George Wyllie executed an outstanding race to take second overall and clinch the national U20 crown in a national U20 road mile record mark of 4:20.71. It was a brilliant performance by the 16-year-old Athletics Tauranga athlete who claimed the national U20 5000m crown in Wellington in March and who bettered the previous national U20 road mile record of 4:26.2 held by Elliott Pugh.

Varney, the long-time leader, finished 0.09 further back but had the consolation of senior silver. Arnold, the national steeplechase silver medallist, grabbed bronze in 4:22.39.

Callum Murray (Athletics Tauranga) claimed silver in the U20 race in 4:24.11 with Te Puke’s Az Cabusao, the national U20 5000m bronze medallist, taking the same colour medal in Rotorua in 4:27.75.

Wall, a winner of the Lovelock Mile in Timaru in January, said: “I tend to run a wee bit better off a slow pace, and this allows to finish strongly. I just had to believe I could catch the leaders. One of the young guys (Wyllie) challenged with around with 300m but with a slight downhill to the finish I had just enough to get around. I’m stoked to win.

“We came here to have some fun, have a weekend away and see how it went,” adds Palmerston North-based Wall, who is coached remotely by Evan Cooper. He also plans to compete in the Runway5 here on Saturday in Rotorua.

Home athlete Poppy Martin retained her national women’s U20 road mile title, posting a time of 5:07.59. The 18-year-old of Lake City AC, who earlier this year clinched the New Zealand U20 3000m crown, held off the Athletics Tauranga pair of Eleanor Pugh (5:08.61) and Ella Smart (5:09.25) who took out the minor medals.

A memorable opening night to the 60th anniversary edition of the 2024 Red Stag Rotorua Marathon was played out to pumping music and a vibrant atmosphere and also featured a popular Kids Mile and People’s Mile event over the 1609m distance.

The day two action at the 2024 Red Stag Rotorua Marathon will open with the full marathon and the Coombs Johnston BMW Half Marathon at 8am followed by the Go Media 10km at 8.15am and the First Credit Union 5.5km from 8.30am.

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