News & Updates

27 February 2023 • Track and Field

Red hot hurdler Josh eyes national records

New Zealand’s fastest ever 110m hurdler Josh Hawkins can lay a serious claim to being among one of his country’s most underrated athletes. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

New Zealand’s fastest ever 110m hurdler Josh Hawkins can lay a serious claim to being among one of his country’s most underrated athletes. A former World U18 silver medallist, a seven-time national 110m hurdles champion and the national record-holder courtesy of a blistering 13.69 clocking back in 2015 he boasts a proud and accomplished record.

During the Covid years, Josh admits his form slightly dipped as he was starved of the top-quality overseas competition, which has historically brought the best out in the Auckland City Athletics hurdler.

However, after running a 100m flat PB of 10.51 in Tauranga in November – two of his three quickest 100m times have come during the 2022-23 season – and given his fastest 110m hurdles mark for the season of 14.08 was into a slight headwind in Wellington he believes he could shortly be set for his first sub-14 second clocking since recording 13.92 at the 2019 World University Games in Naples.

“I was surprised by the 100m PB, although it did validate where I am at in terms of my shape,” says Josh. “I figure that if I am running fast, I am probably going to hurdle fast. Sprinter and hurdling quickly are based on confidence, and if I’m hurdling well, I’m confident and happy then who knows.”

Taking up athletics at the age of two at Ellerslie Athletics, Josh quickly discovered a flair for sprinting. Initially using athletics as a means to improve his rugby fitness over time his passion for playing the 15-a-side game gradually withered as his team-mates and opposition grew in size.

He first tried out hurdling at the Inter Provincial Championships – a competition for athletes aged 12 to 14 – although it took some years before he fully acknowledged hurdles was his calling.

“Competing at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the 2011 World U18 Championships I considered myself more of a 100m and 200m runner than a hurdler but success at the World U18 in Lille was the moment I finally believed I was a hurdler.”

Josh, who had also reached the 200m semi-finals at the World U18 Championships, described winning silver in France as “one of the biggest milestones of his career” and he went into the senior ranks with a big reputation. A global age-group medallist he took time to adjust but in 2014 recorded his first sub-14 second time – a 13.97 at the Sydney Track Classic.

The following year he stepped up to another level, winning the first of his seven national 110m hurdles in Wellington and also clocking his New Zealand record of 13.69 in Brisbane, which still stands today.

“Running sub-14 at the Sydney Track Classic against David Oliver (a former world 110m hurdles champion and Olympic bronze medallist) was a massive mindset shift for me. I equate running a sub-14-second 110m hurdles as similar to a sub-11 100m. As soon as I became a 13-second hurdler it made a massive difference as to how I mentally approached races.”

Believing a combination of his basic natural speed coupled with his obsessive personality provide the perfect recipe for becoming a top-quality hurdler he has however not recorded a sub-14 second mark for four years. The Covid years were tough as he did not have the opportunity to compete overseas. He has also took time to master the transition of shifting from eight to seven strides to the first hurdle, which he first implemented three years ago. But this season the Senior Environment Monitoring Officer at Auckland Council has emerged in highly encouraging form.

Training under long-term coach Joe Hunter, he has benefited from the addition of a couple of new members to his training group – Matt Eady (a 50.90 400m sprinter) and Hayato Yoneto (a 10.74 100m runner). Training out of Papakura – while his regular base at Mt Smart Stadium has undergone track renovations – he is fortunate that his employers have been flexible in allowing Josh to start his working day at 6.30am and finish at 3pm to allow him to train before dark.

This season he has stepped up his focus on the 100m flat, another factor he believes has contributed to his excellent form through the 2022-23 campaign.

“I didn’t do many races last season, but Joe and I worked out we probably need ten to 12 races for me to get into the rhythm of racing,” says Josh. “I can’t do a hurdle race every week, so the quickest way of getting that amount of racing is to do some sprinting as well. There has also been a huge mental shift to my training in that we’ve gone back to basics. I’ve done eight or nine years of training now for the senior hurdles, so I don’t need to focus so much on hurdling as part of my training.”  

A seven-time national champion between 2015-2022 – the one blip was in 2020 when his blocks slipped at the start and he was disqualified – he will start a red-hot favourite to make it number eight in Wellington. However, given the perilous nature of the event he is taking nothing for granted.

“As I showed in 2020 there are a bunch of things that can go wrong as a hurdler, so I never assume anything. It is also Wellington, so it does depend on the weather but if we do get ideal conditions, I’d love a go at the New Zealand resident record of 13.98 (Josh set in Hamilton in 2017) and if things go really well a crack at the New Zealand record.”

Aged 29 Josh can look back fondly on a fulfilling athletics career but he does not believe the end of his career is imminent.

“I’ll stop athletics when I feel I’ve reached my potential and hopefully the 13.69 is not going to stand for much too much longer. I’m in reasonable condition, I just have to execute.”

***Look out for Josh in action at the 2023 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships at Newtown Park, Wellington (2-5 March).