News & Updates

10 February 2024 • Track and Field

Aitchison executes stunning world-class display at Porritt Classic

World Para sprint champion produced a pair of dazzling performances at the Porritt Classic in Hamilton today. Credit: (Alan McDonald)

World Para 200m gold medallist and 100m silver medallist Danielle Aitchison made a huge statement in the countdown to the Paris Paralympic Games by posting a hand-timed 200m T36 time of 27.80 and an outstanding 100m T36 mark of 13.65 (+0.5) – within 0.04 of the world record mark.

Unfortunately, a technical issue with the women’s 200m Para meant that no official electronic timing was recorded and the hand-timed mark of 27.80 – which was well under the world record time of 28.17 set by Yiteng Shi – will not count for record purposes. Aitchison was offered the chance to later race again over 200m under electronic timing but after a long and tiring day opted not to take that opportunity.

However, irrespective of the technical difficulties which beset the women’s Para 200m, it was an outstanding all-round display by Aitchison on her home track which points to a special year ahead highlighted by both the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe, Japan in May and the Paris Paralympic Games in August-September.

Aitchison, 22, profiting from near perfect sprinting conditions on a newly laid track at Porritt Stadium, began her day by blitzing to a national T36 record of 13.65 (+0.5) within 0.04 of the world record of Shi, the World and Paralympic champion, from China.

In the 200m, arguably her stronger event, the Alan McDonald-coached athlete look supreme. However, after a lengthy delay in confirming the results, it was later discovered there was a fault with the electronic timing.  

Aitchison preferred to focus on the positives of what was an outstanding day for the Hamilton City Hawks athlete: “I’m super happy. To get those times was so good. Both races went really well. In the 200m I focused on being explosive out of the blocks and being light. I’ve tried to work on being relaxed in this competition and try not to think about the race too much.

“To get such good times so early in the season motivates me. I know I still have areas of improvement, so I can make some more gains. It is exciting to think about what I can do at World Champs and Paralympics.”

On a bumper day for New Zealand’s leading Para athletes, Will Stedman lowered the national men’s 200m T36, recording a dazzling time of 25.15 (0.7m/s) to finish first (on percentage of the world record) in a high-class men’s Para race. Stedman lowered the previous mark of 25.32 held by Keegan Pitcher to complete a busy schedule in style. Earlier, Stedman, the World Para 400m and long jump silver medallist, finished first (on world record percentage) in the men’s 100m recording 12.33 – faster than his national record of 12.40 – but because of the wind reading of 3.2m/s it will not be legal mark for record purposes.

He then registered a solid 54.94 in the 400m before he moved on to the long jump, breaking the sand with a best of 5.41m (2.2m/s).

Stedman said: “The 200m was definitely quicker than I was expecting after competing in the 100m, long jump and 400m, so I was pretty happy with the time. I was feeling knackered after the 400m, so to run low 25 (seconds) I’m really happy.

“I was not quite where I wanted to be in the 400m and long jump, ironically I did better in my non- specialist events, the 100m and the 200m. I was hoping for under 54 (seconds) in the 400m but I’m in reasonable heavy training at the moment, and there are definitely some positive signs there.”

World Para 200m T64 bronze medallist Mitch Joynt also impressed in his specialist event, stopping the clock in 23.55 to finish second on world record percentage behind Stedman, but within 0.23 of his lifetime best.

Earlier in the men’s Para 100m Joynt ran a blistering 11.72 – 0.14 quicker than his national record time. However, with an accommodating 3.2m/s wind at his back the mark will not count as a record. World Para representative Joe Smith (T37) 11.85 and Jaxon Woolley (T38) in 12.04 were also denied New Zealand records by the excessive wind.

New Zealand record-holder Josh Hawkins executed a slightly untidy race but still secured a convincing victory in the men’s 110m hurdles, posting 14.09 (+0.5). Hawkins, who celebrated his 30th birthday yesterday, clattered through several hurdles, so could not quite match his 14.01 clocking from eight days earlier in Wellington. Still, on another day his New Zealand resident record of 13.94 looks vulnerable while his national record mark of 13.67 is not of reach this year for the Auckland City athlete.  

Hawkins said: “I’m happy with the time, I’m consistently running 14.0s but definitely clattering the hurdles is affecting a faster time. Then again, if I wasn’t clattering the hurdles and I recorded that time I would have nothing to improve on, so it is a negative, positive, if that makes sense.” Hawkins next plans to compete at the Maurie Plant meet in Melbourne on Thursday (15 Feb)

The 1500m races provided a rousing climax to a memorable meet with Brigid Dennehy (North Harbour) timing her run to perfection to overhaul long-time leader Tillie Hollyer to take victory in the women’s metric mile in a PB of 4:17.28. Hollyer, who last week captured the NZ 3000m crown, was rewarded with a lifetime best in second (4:18.53). Boh Ritchie, (Hamilton 17, finished fourth in 4:25.60 – just six tenths shy of the performance standard time for the World U20 Championships.  

Sam Tanner went above and beyond for the New Zealand middle-distance community by helping 12 of the 20 strong field to PB performances and four athletes to performance standard times for the World U20 Championships in Lima in a hugely supportive act by the World Championship semi-finalist. Tanner vowed pre-race to act as the pacemaker and lived up to the billing by running at a fast, though consistent cadence for the rest of the field. Beckoning his nearest pursuer David Lee (Whippets) to go past him on the home straight, Tanner stopped the clock in first in 3:43.13 ahead of Lee, the NZ mile silver medallist, who clocked a lifetime best of 3:43.94. Benjamin Wall (Feilding Moa) was another PR collector in third (3:46.57). Daniel Prescott (3:46.85), Jamie Mora (3:47.29), Daniel Sinclair (3:47.38) and George Wyllie (3:47.53) all secured the World U20 Championship performance standard times.

Kendra Scally showed the future of women’s sprinting is bright by carving 0.38 from her previous best as the 15-year-old secured victory in the women’s 200m in a time of 24.26 (1.7m/s). She finished 0.04 clear of Briana Irving as three of the best five women home snared a lifetime best.

National U18 100m champion Talia van Rooyen enjoyed a profitable day by taking a narrow victory in the open women’s 100m – 0.03 clear of New Zealand U16 gold medallist Emilia Goldsmith – posting 12.10. Van Rooyen, the New Zealand U18 100m hurdles champion, later returned to compete in the women’s senior hurdles placing third in 15.17 as Alessandra Macdonald, the national silver medallist, took out the win in a handy 14.14 (2.3m/s).

Former national champion Camryn Smart in 55.69 proved too strong for New Zealand Secondary Schools representative Amelie Fairclough (56.15) in the women’s 400m.  

National 400m champion Lex Revell-Lewis (Waitakere) was one of the star sprinters on show as he completed a stylish 200m and 400m double. In the latter event he maintained his excellent start to the season by posting an impressive 47.37 – within 0.03 of his lifetime best – to claim a convincing win ahead of Fergus McLeay (48.51). Then he followed this up with a comprehensive victory in the men’s permit 200m, by scalping exactly half-a-second from his lifetime best to win in 21.39 (-0.4) from Troy Middleton (21.70).

Joe Dolphin, 17, edged the open men’s 100m in a photo-finish from former New Zealand U20 champion Zachary Saunders with both credited with a time of 10.78.

James Ford and Thomas Cowan – who have both achieved World U20 Championships performance standards in the men’s 800m – have enjoyed some titanic battles throughout the 2023-24 season and the Auckland-based duo again did not disappoint. With Cowan tracking the pacemaker for the first 400m it was the North Harbour Bays athlete who held the lead entering the second lap. However, Ford, a national U20 400m and New Zealand Secondary Schools gold medallist over the one-lap distance, kicked clear of Cowan down the home straight to win his rival and friend by 0.63 in 1:50.31.

In the women’s 800m Stella Pearless (North Harbour Bays), the national 400m bronze medallist, cruised to victory in 2:08.75.

New Zealand senior champion Douw Botes bettered his lifetime best on three occasions in the men’s javelin but came tantalisingly short of performance standard mark of 68.00m for the World U20 Championships. Botes added 1cm to his previous best with a 65.75m in round two before extending that mark with a 67.15m throw in the third stanza. The 19-year-old, however, was not quite finished hurling the javelin out to 67.72m in round six. Despite enjoying a memorable day, the Pakuranga AC athlete had to concede defeat to Samoan record-holder Donny Tuimaseve, who launched the spear out to a best of 69.21m.

Elsewhere in the field, Imogen Skelton (Auckland City Athletics), the national bronze medallist maintained her streak of ‘Classic’ victories following up wins at Cooks and Capital to triumph in Hamilton with a best of 1.75m to seal top spot in the women’s high jump. Lewis Arthur (North Harbour) another of the quiet success stories of the 2024 season claimed a fifth win from five men’s long jump competitions this year with a best leap of 7.29m in round four.

Liam Ngchok-Wulf (Papakura) claimed another PB to win the men’s shot with 17.30m. Anthony Nobilo was unopposed in the men’s hammer – taking top spot with 66.88m.

All three medallists in the women’s U20 New Zealand Championship posted lifetime best performances as Poppy Martin (Lake City) added the age group crown to the senior 3000m bronze medal she claimed eight days ago in Wellington. Martin stopped the clock in 9:45.23 ahead of Zara Geddes who grabbed silver in 9:47.09 with New Zealand U20 mile champion Charo Heijnen taking bronze in 9:49.66.

Caleb Wagener (Pakuranga) secured the men’s U20 New Zealand 3000m title in 8:31.08 – finishing just over two-and-a-half second clear of 14-year-old Athletics Tauranga talent Sam Ruthe who claimed silver in 8:33.63. Te Puke’s Az Cabusao collected bronze in 8:36.12. Every athlete from second to seventh registered a personal best time.

National senior champion Michael Sutton (9:11.67) defeated New Zealand U20 gold medallist Toby Tasker (9:13.22) in a competitive men’s 3000m steeplechase with both athletes rewarded with a lifetime performance. Sutton’s mark was the fastest men’s steeplechase time by a New Zealander in New Zealand for nine years.

Sasha Al-Dahzani posted national open T38 records in the 100m – 15.62 (+0.5) and 200m – 33.03 (+1.2)

For results go to Athletic Live here