News & Updates

18 December 2023 • Track and Field

Pain-free McCartney impresses at Night of 5s

Eliza McCartney soars clear at 4.73m to make an eye-catching start to her season at the Daikin Night of 5s. Credit: Alisha Lovrich

Competing at her first event since the 2023 World Athletics Championships, Eliza McCartney opened her 2023-24 season in style with an impressive 4.73m clearance to win the women’s pole vault at the Daikin Night of 5s at AUT Millennium on Saturday.

The 27-year-old Aucklander opened the competition with a first-time clearance at 4.41m and maintained her flawless record at 4.55m, 4.65m and 4.73m. She found 4.80m beyond her on this occasion but the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist was hugely encouraged by her performance.

McCartney, who also matched the Olympic entry standard height, described her past three months of training as “phenomenal” and she was delighted to be vaulting pain-free.

“I might have had one or two comps this year when I wasn’t competing in pain and this was one of them,” she says. “It is so positive to feel this confident in your body, and to be able to do the things that you want it to do really well. It has been a crazy good last three months of training, which shows because I got a ten-stride PB today and an Olympic qualifier.”

“I had a plan of how to attack and we followed the plan exactly, the only thing I didn’t clear was 4.80m. We stuck to the plan and the technical goals. It was big tick today and a lovely way to get into things again.”

McCartney will next fly to Europe where she will compete in several indoor meets in the countdown to the 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March.

Last season McCartney re-emerged after several seasons of injury disappointment. She landed her first national crown for six years and cleared 4.85m in Luxembourg in late-July, the joint third best performance of her career. Unfortunately, injury derailed her efforts at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, and she could not negotiate her opening height in qualification.

Laura Nagel, the co-organiser of the popular annual meet, executed a tactically astute race, to claim victory in the women’s 5000m A race in a slick 15:58.48 – her fastest time for the distance for nine-and-a-half-years.

In a dramatic race, Kimberley May paced Rebekah Greene through the first 3000m, giving the Hill City athlete a lead in mid-race of more than 20 seconds. However, as the reached its concluding lap the gap between the chasing Nagel and long-time leader Greene had been vastly reduced. On a memorable final 400m the Bays Athletics athlete kicked clear and on to victory with Greene second in 16:06.69.

The remarkable 40-year-old Lisa Cross (TTT Runners) carved more than 13 seconds from her PB – which was set in Pakuranga last month – to place third in 16:26.53, a time which also bettered the New Zealand masters W40 record of Penny Peskett (16:29.89).

Eva Pringle of Whippets obliterated her PB by the best part of half a minute to place fourth in 16:29.82 with national 10,000m champion Katherine Camp in fifth (16:33.13). The defending champion Anneke Arlidge (North Harbour Bays) placed sixth in 16:33.13.

Seven U20 athletes dipped under the performance standard of 17:25 for 2024 World Cross Country Championships selection consideration; Catherine Lund (18) 16:54.90, Siena Mackley (16) 17:09.18 PB, Boh Ritchie (16) 17:13.23 PB, Poppy Martin (18) 17:15.92 PB, Sascha Letica (17) 17:19.45 PB, Charo Heijnen (18) 17:19.99 PB and Ava Sutherland (17) 17:24.18 PB.

Nagel said: “I’m really happy with that. Two weeks ago had a race in Melbourne, I was quite optimistic (but) it went awful (she finished eighth in the 3000m in 9:23 at the Zatopek meet). I had a lot of doubts as to where I was at, so it was nice to get a solid one in and finish strongly.

“I felt pretty good, I didn’t want to do anything too crazy, so I just kept working away gradually. I knew the last 600m or so I could close the gap (on Rebekah Greene) and felt with a lap to go I could there.”

On the spectators coming on to the track to cheer Nagel in the latter stages she added: “It was awesome. I hope that can happen at other meets too and hopefully this will encourage more spectators to come and watch athletics.”

Julian Oakley claimed a third Blincoe Cup to add to his men’s 5000m successes in 2019 and 2022 with a sub-60-second final lap ensuring he banked victory in a time of 13:47.75 to repel the challenge of an inspired William Little.

Olympic triathlon bronze medallist Hayden Wilde – training partner to Oakley – headed the field for the first five laps or so, before the eventual race winner hit the front tracked by Little of Whippets Auckland.

Oakley held a narrow advantage at the bell before the Athletics Tauranga athlete accelerated ahead to mount a successful defence. Little was rewarded by smashing his PB by more than 16 seconds to record 13:50.04 and further reiterated his excellent recent form after he posted a 10,000m PB of 29:14.92 at Zatopek meet in Melbourne earlier this month. National half marathon champion Michael Voss hacked more than 17 seconds from his previous best to record a PB of 14:06.71 for third with New Zealand 5000m bronze medallist Connor Melton in fourth (14:13.68).

Personal best times were set by the fifth to seventh place finishers; Tom Moulai (14:14.39), Caden Shields (14:18.06) and Andre Le Pine-Day (14:20.59). Nine of the 18 finishers recorded lifetime best performances.

Oakley said: “I’m always happy to get the win but it was probably not quite as fast as I would have liked. For the last mile Will was right on me, I had to work hard, it wasn’t easy but to close under-60 (seconds) I’m happy to hold off those guys.”

Oakley’s next big assignment is competing as part of the Dick Tayler Anniversary 10,000m – which doubles as the New Zealand 10,000m Championships – in Dunedin in January.

New Zealand’s future middle-distance stocks look strong after both Thomas Cowan and James Ford dipped under the World Athletics U20 performance standard in a high-class men’s 800m tussle. Reversing their finishing positions from last weekend’s New Zealand Secondary Schools Track & Field Championships in Christchurch, Cowan (North Harbour Bays) claimed top spot in a rapid 1:49.14 to smash almost one-and-a-half seconds from his previous best. Ford of Takapuna Athletics secured his first sub-1:50 clocking – just 0.18 adrift of Cowan.

Ethan Smolej (University of Canterbury) also posted a PB of 1:50.28 for third.

Former national 800m champion Holly Manning in 2:05.88 bagged top spot in the women’s 800m A race in 2:05.88 repelling the challenge of Stella Pearless in second (2:06.78).

Two-time World Athletics Championships representative Georgia Hulls edged a tight women’s 100m gift race, claiming victory by 0.09 from training partner Isabel Neal in 11.52 (+0.9). In the men’s equivalent Zach Saunders prevailed by 0.04 in 10.55 (+0.1) from Blake Parker.

In-form Jaxon Woolley (T38) took out the men’s Para 100m in 12.55 (-0.1).

New Zealand men’s pole vault champion James Steyn claimed top spot in the men’s pole vault with a handy third-time clearance at 5.27m.

For full results go here