News & Updates

16 February 2024 • Track and Field

Kiwi trio secure wins at prestigious Maurie Plant meet

Zoe Hobbs, in action at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, was one of three Kiwi winners at the Maurie Plant meet in Melbourne. Credit: (Michael Dawson).

On a chilly evening in Melbourne, Kiwi athletes impressed at the Maurie Plant meet – a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event – as Zoe Hobbs, Connor Bell and Hamish Kerr all snared confidence boosting victories and in the preceding Melbourne Invitational James Preston maintained his outstanding start to 2024 by clinching top spot in the men’s 800m.

In the most prestigious one-day meet in Oceania, Zoe Hobbs repelled the late-charging Torrie Lewis to secure top spot in women’s 100m, clocking 11.34 (-1.2) to inflict defeat on the Australian sprint prodigy by a victory margin of 0.06.

Much of the pre-race attention had been thrust on Lewis following her national record time of 11.10 last month in Canberra, but benefiting from a dazzling start and blistering first 60m Hobbs could not be denied.

The long-striding Lewis closed in on Hobbs over the final 30m, but the 26-year-old Kiwi was too strong, finishing one metre ahead to clinch a sweet victory. Australian Bree Masters (11.58) finished third.

Hobbs said: “It’s so good to have this level of competition this close to home, especially with Torrie (Lewis) who broke the Aussie record a couple of weeks back. Although it’s not the time I was after, I’m just happy to bank the win and definitely some positives to take away from tonight. I’m glad to have nailed down the first half of the race, especially as it’s leading into the indoor season.”

For the second time in five days Connor Bell inflicted defeat on Australia’s Commonwealth Games champion Matt Denny to lay down another significant marker in the men’s discus. The 22-year-old World Championship finalist seized early control of the competition with a 65.18m effort in round one and despite Denny, a fourth-place finisher at the 2020 Olympics and 2023 World Championships, throwing some heavy punches the Aucklander would not be dislodged from top spot.

Bell put together an excellent series – which also contained 64.68m and 64.44m efforts in rounds three and four – and although Denny gradually improved his top mark of 65.09m in round five proved not good enough and he had to concede defeat to the ever-improving New Zealander.

Great Britain’s European bronze medallist Lawrence Okoye was third with 60.37m.

A delighted Bell said: “I’m very satisfied, it’s always good to throw over 65m. We had a bad wind but to start as well as I did and then have Denny, who is a great competition thrower, put some pressure on made for a great competition.”

The Kiwi now plans to return back home to step up his preparations for the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington (14-17 March). 

Commonwealth champion Hamish Kerr warmed up for a crack at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow next month with a comfortable victory with a best of 2.25m in the men’s high jump.

Kerr opened his night requiring a second time clearance at 2.17m before soaring over both 2.21m and 2.25m with his first jump at each height. He then attempted a season’s best of 2.30m – and although his first attempt in particular was strong, the 2022 World Indoor bronze medallist had to settle for a best of 2.25m – 2cm shy of his season’s best.

Aussie duo Ronan Anastasios and Yual Reath both cleared 2.17m to be the best of the rest.

“I’m stoked with the victory,” said Kerr. “It is awesome to come over here and compete with some slightly bigger boys than I was back in New Zealand. I think I’m in a good place but there is still some work to do before World Indoors. I’m going to have to step up because the boys are raring to go over there. But at the same time, I’m happy with where I’m at and between now and then I hope to find a few more centimetres and be ready to go by (World) indoors.”

New Zealand record-holder Tori Peeters enjoyed a solid outing to register a solid season’s best of 57.35m to place second in the women’s javelin.

Unleashing a consistent series – which included four throws beyond 56m – she had to play second fiddle today to Australian veteran Kathryn Mitchell, who triumphed with a world-leading effort of 62.12m in the final round. In a dominant performance by the 41-year-old former Commonwealth champion, Mitchell hurled the four longest throws of the competition.

For Peeters, however, it was another small step in the right direction after opening her season with a 56.53m throw in Wellington earlier this month.

Momone Ueda, a two-time World Championships representative for Japan, completed the podium positions in third (57.15m).  

The 2019 and 2022 world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber of Australia finished down in seventh with a best of 54.59m.

New Zealand champion Sam Tanner placed a admirable fourth in a high-class John Landy Mile – one of the marquee events of the night – as the Kiwi registered a season’s best of 3:53.16.

In a thrilling race, Tanner ran a sensible first three laps at the Lakeside Stadium and sat fourth at the bell before becoming detached from the lead three athletes on the final lap. In a stunning finale, home athlete Stewart McSweyn claimed a famous scalp by defeating 2022 World 1500m champion Jake Wightman of Great Britain by 11 hundredths of a second, clocking a slick 3:52:00. Seventeen-year-old Australian middle-distance prodigy Cameron Myers grabbed third in 3:52.44.

New Zealand record-holder Josh Hawkins executed a solid effort against a strong Australian field to finish fourth in a season’s best of 14.00 (0.0) in the men’s 110m hurdles. Benefiting from a slick start Tayleb Willis grabbed top spot by equalling his PB of 13.79 to defeat his countryman Jacob McCorry by 0.05.

Kiwi Keeley O’Hagan equalled her season’s best to clear 1.80m and place joint fourth in a competition snared by Olympic silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers of Australia in a world-class meet record of 1.99m.

In the women’s 5000m, Rebekah Aitkenhead, the New Zealand mile champion, carved almost nine seconds from her lifetime best to run 15:47.92 to place 14th one place ahead of her compatriot Laura Nagel (15:51.41). In a high-quality race Tokyo Olympian Rose Davies claimed victory in a meet record of 14:57.54.

Several Kiwi athletes also competed in the Melbourne Invitational with James Preston putting together another quality display to win the men’s 800m in 1:46.02. Following on from his 1:45.50 clocking for second in Adelaide five days earlier, the 26-year-old maintained his high-level of form in 2024 as he romped to an emphatic success 0.41 clear of Aussie Luke Boyes in second.

Georgia Hulls was edged into second by just 0.01 recording 23.64 (-2.9) to finish a hair’s breadth behind Australia’s Jessica Milat. For Hulls, a two-time World Championships representative, it was a solid outing, particularly given the testing headwind.

Paralympic long jump T47 champion Anna Grimaldi, who last year also snared World Para 100m bronze, enjoyed a good all-round night by sprinting to a time of 12.89 (-1.3) to place fourth on world record percentage with 92.24% in the women’s 100m. In a close battle victory was shaded by Australia’s Mali Lovell T36 with a PB of 14.79 (92.49%). In the women’s long jump, the experienced Kiwi soared out to a solid season’s best of 5.51m (-0.5) to finish second (91.68%) to Australian Vanessa Low T61 who set a PB of 5.15m (1.2) for a percentage mark of 96.68%.

For results from the Maurie Plant meet go here

For results from the Melbourne Invitational go here