News & Updates
20th Anniversary for Potts Classic
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The Potts Classic celebrates its 20th anniversary edition on Jan 26. We toast the achievement by focusing on seven reasons why we love this little jewel in the annual athletics calendar staged in the idyllic Hawke’s Bay.
Heritage and history
Launched in January 2000 in honour of former Olympic and Commonwealth Games middle-distance runner Sylvia Potts, who lost her battle with cancer just four months earlier, the Potts Classic has become a mainstay of the mid-summer domestic campaign for the past two decades.
Originally known as the Sylvia Potts Classic in 2015 the event became re-titled the Allan and Sylvia Potts Classic following the death of Sylvia’s husband and former coach Allan, who himself was a leading athlete, coach and administrator.
The current event co-ordinator is Allan and Sylvia’s son, Richard, himself a former New Zealand international athlete and a winner of the 3000m at the 2001 Potts Classic.
“To be associated with such an event has been very humbling,” he says. “As sponsorship has grown the event has become bigger over the years, which has allowed us to attract better quality athletes from both within New Zealand and overseas.”
The Potts Classic is run by a non-for-profit trust alongside Hastings AC and whatever funds are raised is put back into the Hawke’s Bay Cancer Society (both Sylvia and Allan Potts lost their lives to cancer). It also helps a selected number of local athletes with their overseas travel costs.
“Our crowds have got bigger over the years and while we don’t charge a gate fee as such we have a gold coin donation, which we hand over to the local cancer society. We also sometimes put some money aside for younger development athletes. In the past few years we’ve helped sprinter Georgia Hulls attend the World U20 Championships and last year Nick Palmer competed at the World U20 Championships in Finland. Part of the motivation of putting on the meet is to help the local community.”
New Zealand athletics royalty
The cream of New Zealand talent has made a point of attending the meet in the past. Among former athletes to have secured victories at the event include; two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis (2001 800m), multiple New Zealand women’s distance record-holder Kim Smith (2002 1500m), former World and Commonwealth discus champion Beatrice Faumuina (in 2003 and 2010), New Zealand 5000m record-holder Adrian Blincoe (2000 800m), New Zealand 200m record-holder Joseph Millar (a sprint winner in 2010, 2013, 2014) and former World U20 champion Jacko Gill, who secured a hat-trick of wins in the men’s shot from 2015-2017.
“We are proud that New Zealand’s finest have made a point of competing here,” explains Richard.
While the event does not have the budget to attract the very top overseas athletes, the Potts Classic, thanks to increased sponsorship, is earning a growing reputation for attracting prominent overseas athletes.
In 2017 former Australian joint 800m record-holder Alex Rowe claimed victory in the marquee two-lap race in a meet record of 1:48.06. At last year’s edition Australia’s former World U20 and U18 silver medallist Liz Parnov faced Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney in the women’s pole vault, while in the men’s pole vault, former World Championship finalist Tobias Scherbarth clinched the win in Hastings.
The Potts Classic has seen a number of top performances over the previous 19 editions but perhaps the finest two in the history of the meet were delivered last year. In the men’s shot World champion – both indoors and out – Tom Walsh chose to make an early season appearance at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sport Park, hurling the shot to a world leading mark 21.14m.
Pole vault queen Eliza McCartney was similarly impressive clearing a top-class 4.70m to take a popular win and also post a world lead.
“It was great that Tom and Eliza were prepared to come down to Hastings and compete,” adds Potts. “They delivered a masterclass and served up a real treat for the fans.”
Due to Sylvia Potts’ pedigree as an 800m runner, she set the New Zealand record over two-laps in 1970 and represented her country over the distance at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the meet’s marquee events have been the men’s and women’s 800m.
Angie Petty has made a special effort to target the women’s 800m in Hastings, winning the event eight successive times between 2010 and 2017. She has also earned a special $300 bonus for three times dipping below Sylvia’s personal best time of 2:04.00 at the meet.
In the men’s event, a share of a $300 bonus is available for any athlete who can run below the personal best of 1:48.22 run by Hamish Christiansen, the 1999 World Championships 1500m athlete, who was formerly coached by Allan Potts.
The Tom and Eliza show
For the 20th edition of the event both Tom Walsh and Eliza McCartney plan to return following their successful appearances 12 months ago. Both athletes will likely be the star performers of the meet with the pair choosing to also spend a period training in the beautiful Hawkes Bay prior to this year’s meet on January 26. Walsh will face top quality opposition in the shape of former World U20 champion Jacko Gill.
Leading the challenge in the women’s pole vault is Finland’s 2016 World U20 bronze medallist Wilma Murto. Meanwhile, Diogo Ferreira of Portugal, the 2017 World University Games gold medallist, heads the entrants in the men’s pole vault.
Other confirmed names include Angie Petty in the women’s 800m, New Zealand’s fastest man Joseph Millar in 100m action and Spanish discus record-holder Sabina Asenjo – who boasts a best of 61.89m.
The event, however, has always prided itself on giving an opportunity for all and the 2019 20th anniversary edition will also feature U14 100m and 800m handicap races.