News & Updates

28 January 2023 • Track and Field

Sam Tanner regains New Zealand mile title with blistering display

Sam Tanner set a PB on the way to victory in the New Zealand mile championship. Credit: (Peter Jones)

Sam Tanner provided a thrilling climax to the Pak’nSave Cooks Classic in Whanganui tonight (Saturday) by regaining the national title over the classic distance in a PB of 3:54.56.

The Commonwealth Games 1500m sixth-place finisher and all-time New Zealand 1500m number two, demonstrated his class to show a clean pair of heels to the opposition over the final lap to trim 0.41 from his lifetime best set on this track when winning the 2021 New Zealand mile title.

In total four men dipped under the four-minute mile barrier with the Aussie duo Callum Davies (3:56.05) and Jude Thomas (3:58.29) claiming second and third and national 800m champion James Preston also achieving his first landmark sub-four-minute time with a 3:59.44 clocking for fourth and also earning the silver in the New Zealand mile championship. Eric Speakman, who placed fifth overall in 4:03.07, picked up the bronze. Karsen Vesty (New Zealand Secondary Schools), 18, ran a big new PB of 4:04.24 for sixth.

The historic venue has now witnessed 75 sub-four-minute mile performances further evidence the award of a World Athletics Heritage Plaque – which was officially unveiled tonight – was fully deserved for such an iconic middle-distance venue.

James Hercus paced the field through the first 600m before Speakman hit the front and continued to hustle along the pace. Hitting the bell on track for a sub-four-minute clocking, Tanner eased to the front with only Davies, the 2022 Australian 1500m bronze medallist, able to go with the blistering pace set by the 22-year-old Kiwi.

Down the back straight the invisible bungee cord between Tanner and Davies started to stretch, and the quick striding Kiwi rapidly opened up a winning lead. Crossing the line in a new lifetime best, the Athletics Tauranga athlete shifts up to eighth on the all-time New Zealand lists for the mile.

An elated Tanner said: “I didn’t know it was a PB, it felt quite relaxed I’m happy as with a PB.

“With 400m to go my mouth was just watering ready to let it rip. It felt pretty smooth, the strength is definitely showing.  

“It is pretty special (to regain the title) I have been fortunate to have awesome pacers a group of top quality guys to race. To run a third sub-four-minute mile at Cooks is pretty cool.”

Tanner now moves on to compete on the US indoor circuit in Boston on February 4 and then at the historic Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games on February 11.

Rebekah Greene obliterated her nine-year-old PB and lowered the New Zealand resident record to take out the New Zealand women’s mile title with a top-quality display. The 29-year-old Hill City University athlete had to concede defeat to the slick Aussie duo Georgia Griffith and Sarah Billings, who secured the first two places in a high-class race in which the top three all ran under the stadium record of Laura Nagel (4:35.23).

Griffith, a Tokyo Olympian and ninth place finisher in the 2022 World Championship 1500m final, controlled the race from the front after pacemaker Jennifer Hauke departed the track on lap two.

The long-legged Australian and two-time Commonwealth Games representative managed to ease clear of the field on the final lap leaving Billings and Greene in a scrap for second. As Griffith crossed the line in 4:30.26, Billings managed to repel the challenge of Greene to stop the clock in 4:32.30 – 0.62 clear of the gutsy Kiwi.

Greene, however, will be elated with her performance as it lowers her previous mile best of 4:38.03, elevates her to seventh on the all-time New Zealand women’s mile lists and betters the 40-year-old New Zealand resident record of 4:33.93 of Anne Audain.

Holly Manning plugged on gamely to claim the New Zealand mile silver medal in fourth (4:39.96). Tillie Hollyer (Whippets), who ran an 800m PB at Potts Classic last weekend, revealed her excellent current shape to finish strongly and clinch bronze in a PB of 4:43.42.

Tom Walsh opened his season in style with a 21.09m distance earning him a comprehensive victory in the men’s shot put. The 30-year-old Cantabrian finished just 2cm shy of the meet record of Jacko Gill and was very satisfied with his performance in his first competition of the calendar year.

Walsh, who weighs around 5-7kg more than last year in an effort to aid his strength and power in the shot circle, opened his competition with a solid 20.17m before firing out the 7.26kg metal ball to 21.09m in the second stanza. Further 20m+ throws followed in round three (20.79m), five (20.26m) and six (20.52m) to conclude a good night’s work. Nick Palmer (Hastings) with 18.83m placed second with Liam Ngchok-Wulf (Papakura) – courtesy of a 90cm PB – taking third with 17.24m.

A delighted Walsh said: “For the first comp of the season, throwing low 21s in that kind of weather, I’ll take that.

“The first three throws we wanted as technical reviews, to work on staying low, holding my shape and getting out over my left and a big shape drive through the middle. One thing I didn’t do well last year was holding the direction of my shape. To be honest, I nailed the first three throws in terms of the technical stuff. The review on the last three was purely distance. I did these okay, but I didn’t execute those throws as well as I would have liked, but it is a step up from where I started the season last year.”

Rosie Elliott defied the wet, miserable conditions to smash her personal best and win a high-quality women’s 400m in a time of 52.16. The Christchurch Old Boys United athlete hunted down Portia Bing and Australia’s Ellie Beer for the first 250m before storming to the front and powering down the home straight to scalp 0.43 from her lifetime best on the way to a memorable win. Bing hung on to take second in 53.50 – 0.19 clear of Beer who finished third.

“Time wise the goal is to get that 400m time down to the 51s and today was a was a huge step towards that, I’m feeling very excited,” explains Elliott, who next week at Capital Classic plans to compete in the 200m and high jump.

“The Australian athlete and Portia started really quickly, and I was tempted follow them, but I decided not to. One of the great things about having the Australians over here is their race model is so different to mine, I love having someone to chase. To have them and Portia – who always pulls me to a really good time – is a privilege. I normally try to dig deep when I get to the relay zone at 120m to go, I managed to do that and very chuffed with the time.”

Earlier, Bing, the Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles finalist, executed a solid piece of sprinting to win the women’s 200m in 24.14 (0.6) – 0.13 clear of emerging sprint star Chayille Collette, who was representing New Zealand Secondary Schools. The 17-year-old sprinter had earlier clinched victory in the women’s 100m, running a rapid 11.74 (2.1) to suggest her lifetime best of 11.89 is vulnerable in the weeks to come.

Hamish Kerr added 1cm to his seasons best mark as he soared clear at 2.22m to claim a sixth successive men’s high jump victory at the Cooks Classic. After clearing 2.21m in his season opener at Jumps to Music on Wednesday today he leapt comfortable clear of his opening heights at 2.05m and 2.12m before the 26-year-old negotiated 2.22m with his second attempt. He then raised the bar to 2.29m – a height which would have bettered his stadium record by 1cm – but despite three solid efforts, the World Indoor bronze medallist had to settle for a best of 2.22m today.

“I’m stoked with tonight,” said Kerr. “We sat down and reviewed what happened at Hawera (at Jumps to Music) and there were a couple of technical things I picked up in terms of my consistency, which I put in place today. Probably the big difference between today and Wednesday was my attempts at 2.29m today compared to 2.27m on Wednesday. The three attempts at 2.29m were really good attempts, and if things had thing gone my way a bit more, I could have cleared that height.”

Kerr now plans on a four-competition indoor tour of Europe before returning home to compete at the 2023 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington (2-5 March).

Alfie Steedman served further notice of his very special gifts by securing the national U20 mile title in a red-hot time of 4:09.96. The 15-year-old North Harbour Bays athlete was an eye-catching winner of the junior boys 1500m/3000m double at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Champs in December and last week he secured silver in the national U20 3000m championship.

Today the willowy teenager seized control of the race by racing to the front on the penultimate lap and simply ran the legs off the opposition to claim victory from Elliott Pugh 4:11.02 of Athletics Tauranga, who claimed a second national medal in a week after nabbing U20 3000m bronze in Hastings seven days ago. Pugh’s club-mate Callum Murray secured bronze in 4:13.55.

Boh Ritchie, another 15-year-old athlete, proved the class of the field to mount a successful defence of her New Zealand women’s U20 mile title with a performance of huge composure and maturity.

The New Zealand Secondary Schools athlete, who seven days ago landed the national U20 3000m title, led from the gun with Emma Ferguson (Feilding Moa) content to sit behind and wait to strike.

With 200m to go Ferguson, the senior girls New Zealand Secondary Schools 1500m champion, drew alongside the long-time leader but entering the straight Ritchie found an extra gear and accelerated to victory taking more than eight seconds from her PB to record 4:49.07. Ferguson was rewarded with a PB of 4:49.89 in silver with Poppy Martin (Lake City) mounting the podium in bronze (4:57.36).  

In the men’s 200m, Tommy Te Puni athlete wiped 0.26 from his lifetime best as he blasted to an impressive mark of 21.16 (1.8) to claim a comprehensive win. Te Puni has unleashed some fantastic performances in the 400m this season but the 20-year-old from North Harbour Bays will also be hugely encouraged by his display over the half-lap distance, Behind, national U20 champion Zachary Saunders (Pakuranga) grabbed second in 21.62 with Troy Middleton (Waitakere) rounding out the podium positions in 21.92.

Fergus McLeay enjoyed a memorable day by completing a stylish 100m and 400m double. The Hill City University athlete opened his day at Cooks Gardens by claimed the scalp of five-time New Zealand 100m champion Joseph Millar by one tenth of a second in 10.73 (2.1). The 21-year-old sprinter then returned to take out the one-lap race in a PB of 48.42 from Oceania decathlon champion Max Attwell (Christchurch Old Boys United).

Elsewhere in the field, Oceania record-holder Lauren Bruce claimed a comfortable victory in the women’s hammer with a best of 65.98m.

Hannah Sandilands maintained her domestic superiority this season in the women’s long jump with a best of 5.82m (2.0) earning the Christchurch Old Boys United athlete her third win in a week following her breakout win at Potts Classic last Saturday and triumph at the Jumps to Music meet in Hawera on Wednesday.  

The Thomson siblings – Scott and Anna – who both currently hold the national men’s and women’s triple jump titles, demonstrated their domestic dominance by cruising to victory in their respective events. Anna, a five-time New Zealand champion, bounded out to a best of 12.33m (3.2) with Scott registering a best of 14.16m (1.0) to take out the men’s event.

Imogen Skelton backed up her victory at Jumps to Music on Wednesday to claim top spot from Keeley O’Hagan in the women’s high jump. Skelton, the national silver medallist, cleared 1.82m to finish four centimetres clear of O’Hagan, the Commonwealth Games sixth-placer, who attained a best of 1.78m.

Local athlete Jonathan Maples enjoyed a day to remember as he scalped more than a second from his lifetime best to record a swift 54.33 to win the men’s 400m hurdles. The reigning national champion from Athletics Whanganui finished 1.15 clear of Cameron Moffitt (Hill City), the national U20 champion, who was also rewarded with a sizeable PB.

The podium finishers in the women’s 400m hurdles also all shattered their PB’s as the fast-finishing Grace Wisnewski 1:02.49 edged the long-time leader Sophie Hancock by 0.17. Maggie Jones also ran the fastest 400m hurdles race of her career, registering 1:02.81 in bronze. The trio all represented New Zealand Secondary Schools.

Results here