News & Updates

1 April 2023 • Track and Field

Shay hopes to round out breakthrough season with top performance at Aussie champs

Shay Veitch soared out to a new PB of 7.99m at Trusts Arena in March and will be looking to climax his season on a high at the Australian Championships. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

When Shay Veitch soared out to a monster 7.99m – to achieve the best long jump by a New Zealander for a quarter of a century at the Sir Graeme Douglas International presented by Harcourts Cooper & Co last month – the talented 22-year-old hit a new realm.

It was rich reward for the University of Otago nutrition student who bounced back from a challenging 2022 to enjoy the competition of his life on a wet and windy March night at the Trusts Arena.

Coming into the competition with a PB of 7.83m – all the stars aligned as he exceeded that distance on four occasions – in an unforgettable competition – which was won by Australian Liam Adcock with a massive 8.18m (2.3m/s).

The bare statistics of the South Islander’s performance saw Shay advance to joint number two on the all-time New Zealand lists and within a tantalisingly 6cm of the 55-year-old national record set by Bob Thomas.

“After my 7.85m in round two I knew there was more there and I was so happy to jump 7.99m,” he explains. “I got the old back flip out (in celebration) which I haven’t done in a while. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun competing.

“Eight metres is seen as such a benchmark but I was just really happy to get a new PB. I hope one day to get the national record, it will be a big honour (if I achieve it). But it is impressive to think what Bob achieved in an age when we didn’t know as much about the human body as we do now.

“I’ve since found out Bob started his run up on grass before running on to 20 metres of track when he set the national record. The fact that he did that back in facilities back then which were nowhere near as good as we have today is pretty amazing. But it is surprising the record has not yet been broken.”

Shay probably first emerged as a future candidate to one day knock off Thomas’ record in 2021. Aged 20 at the time he completed the 100m and long jump double at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Hastings setting a PB of 7.71m with his longest jump a windy 7.78m.

Based down in Dunedin the Ariki AA & HC club extended his best to 7.80m at the Rhythm and Jumps comp in Christchurch in late-2021 however an ankle injury caused him to prematurely pull the pin on his season in January last year.

“There was a lot of tension and inflammation and the medial arch had collapsed,” explains Shay. “It was frustrating and knowing I would eat myself up unless I had something else to do I started applying for jobs before uni re-started.”

He worked for a period before returning to university as a tradie as part of a house renovation and he stacked shelves at his supermarket as a distraction but after the injury settled down he gradually returned to training during the winter months with his coach, the 2022 Arthur Eustace Award winner, Mike Beable.

With Mike based in Wanaka and Shay in Dunedin the pair largely work remotely. Shay films most of his jumps and sends them to his coach, the pair speak almost daily during the summer months and the New Zealand long jump champion occasionally heads across to Wanaka for training stints.

“He saw the potential in me when we started working together and we are on the same page in that Mike is quite methodical,” says Shay of his coach. “He has an unrivalled experience in athletics and he seems to get it right all the time. It is nice to have someone you can blindly trust.”

During the winter months and through the spring, Shay, under Mike’s guidance, changed his run up and focused on hitting speed at the right time as well as being in the right position at take-off.

Initially the signs were positive that the technical changes were working. Starting his season back in October with a 7.72m at an inter club meet in Dunedin two weeks later he set a PB of 7.83m at the Dame Yvette Williams meet to offer real optimism he could be set for something special.

However, in the middle phase of the season he went into a technical lull and struggled to execute his very best. He claimed a series of wins at the Potts, Lovelock and Porritt Classics but his winning distances were all below 7.50m.

However, a 7.65m winning leap to regain his national title at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington offered hope he was returning to his best before his breakthrough performance in West Auckland.

So why does he believe everything clicked at the Sir Graeme Douglas meet?

“The run up has been a big thing that has changed, and it all came together at the Auckland meet,” he explains. “It was really satisfying for myself and my coach. I was hitting the board in the right position pretty much every jump.”

Producing a wonderful series of 7.40m (+2.3) 7.85m (+2.4), 7.99m (+1.8), 7.88m (+2.1), 7.98m (+1.6) and 7.77m (+1.0), there is little question Shay benefited from some favourable winds but it also has to be taken into account it was wet and chilly night.

Top-quality Aussie competition also played a motivational role while the crowd also played its part in a high-energy competition close to the main grandstand.   

“It was a big motivator having a large crowd watching, although we were probably a bit fortunate that the rain brought some of the crowd over from the shot put.  With the crowd right there in the grandstand too, that was nice.”

In the longer term, Shay has his sights on the 2024 Paris Olympic but first he will look to climax his season in style with an appearance at the Australian Championships in Brisbane. After advancing through the prelims as an auto qualifier in third with a best of 7.75m he hopes to produce a performance he can be proud of in the final on Sunday.

“It is not out of the question that I can win there, but it is not going to be easy and I know I will have to jump well,” he said. “If I jump as well as I can I will be in the top placings, that is what I’m trying to do.”