Tanner Bolts To National 1500m Title To Climax Memorable Event

Published: Mon 18 Mar 2024 07:51 PM
A blistering final lap by Sam Tanner helped propel the middle-distance maestro to his fourth national 1500m title with a typically dominant display to crown the final day of the 2024 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships at Newtown Park in Wellington.
The all-time New Zealand number two for the metric mile cruised around the first couple of laps before advancing to the front with around 600m to go. The 23-year-old Waikato Bay of Plenty athlete then put on the after burners at the bell to rapidly accelerate away from the remainder of the field and ease to victory to add to the national mile and 3000m crowns he has also snared during a stellar domestic campaign.
The 2023 World Championships semi-finalist registered 4:05.80 for the win ahead of the Canterbury duo Russell Green, who upgraded on the bronze medal he took in this event last year to take silver in 4:07.50, and David Lee (4:07.73), who added bronze to the NZ mile silver he collected in January.
“I just relaxed for the first couple of laps and then moved with 600m to go, I took the lead and send it hard for the last 400m,” said Tanner of his 51.6 final lap. “I’m happy to win another national title.”
Rebekah Aitkenhead capped a hugely satisfying domestic season by fending off the challenge of Laura Nagel to claim her maiden national senior women’s 1500m title in a captivating showdown.
Aitkenhead, 30, who edged Nagel in a thrilling battle for the New Zealand mile title in January, seized control of the race down the back straight on the penultimate lap and despite the best efforts of Nagel, the Otago athlete would not be denied her win.
The gold medallist posted an impressive 4:11.65 – within 0.16 of her lifetime best – to win by a margin of 0.30 from Nagel, who put up a brave defence of her title. Brigid Denney, the senior women’s 5000m title, crowned an excellent track campaign by winning bronze in 4:15.23.
Aitkenhead, who like Tanner is coached by Craig Kirkwood, said: “I did plan to sit for at least a 1km, but we switched off too much on that second lap, so I made the decision if I was going to go, I was going to go from there. It was a long way to go from, but I know all the girls behind me have really good kicks, so I tried and take the sting out of them and close as fast as I could.
“I am stoked. I think today was the first time I thought I don’t have to win this. It was more, if I don’t win this, it is fine too. Taking the pressure off helped me run a bit smoother.”
Georgia Hulls claimed a fourth straight national senior women’s 200m title with an accomplished and decisive victory in 23.24 (0.2). After a season of mixed results the 24-year-old Hawke’s Bay Gisborne sprinter turned on the style and held a clear lead entering the home straight. From there she extended her advantage to finish 0.53 ahead of national record-holder Rosie Elliott (Canterbury) with Brooke Somerfield, the 2023 silver medallist, taking bronze in 23.85. Portia Bing the national 400m champion and 100m bronze medallist was fourth in 24.02.
“Today I just wanted to go back and have fun,” she said. “Not running to win and running to win fast is way easier said than done, and it felt like I was 15 again.
“I don’t think my season is ending here, but I haven’t planned too far ahead. I did what I wanted to do today, so I’m really happy.”
New Zealand decathlon champion Angus Lyver stormed to a stunning victory in the senior men’s 200m final, defeating pre-race favourite Lex Revell-Lewis (Auckland) by a 0.10 margin in 21.09 to produce one of the shock performances of the championships.
In a little over an hour the versatile 19-year-old Lyver then went on to claim bronze in the senior men’s javelin with a throw of 55.71m before running the opening leg for the Canterbury quartet that won a senior men’s 4x400m bronze medal to cap an incredible day.
The 19-year-old athlete who is thriving under the coaching of James Sandilands, opened his medal-laden hour with a blistering 200m victory. Flying around the end he finished strongly to hold off Revell-Lewis, the national 400m champion, with Tommy Te Puni in 21.27 taking bronze.
Lyver, who also won a national senior long jump bronze on Friday with a PB of 7.36m, said of his 200m win. “I’m over the moon I did not expect it, I was just hoping to make the final. I knew my legs had it in them. I’m stoked. I just kept going, didn’t stop. It is a pretty chill feeling.”
Douw Botes finishing ahead of Lyver to successfully defend his senior men’s javelin title with a best of 63.76m.
The race walkers provided some morning fireworks as Laura Langley hacked more than three minutes from her lifetime best to take the senior women’s 10,000m race walking title and Jonah Cropp set men’s national U19/U20 records and dipped under the World U20 Championship performance standard for the 10,000m race walk.
The Canterbury duo delivered overwhelming evidence that New Zealand race walking is on the up with Cropp posting 43:41:07 to take more than 11 seconds from the previous national U19/U20 mark of Tony Sargisson. Crucially he also was a little under four seconds under the standard for Lima and he was understandably elated with his efforts.
“My first 5km felt clean and easy but around 7km everything started hitting the fan, but in that last kilometre I started to bring it back. The main target was 43 (minutes), and if we aim for that we’ll get everything under it.”
Langley retained her title in 46:34.87 to take an insane amount off her previous best. A revelation under the coaching of Damien Blocki she said: “I cruised through the 5km mark in a 5km PB and felt so good. I picked it up and cruised through the final 5km in 22:58, which is a whole minute of my previous 5km PB! To also see Jonah, my training buddy, get his world (U20) qualifier, I’m so stoked for him.”
Both Langley and Cropp move on to compete at the 2024 World Race Walking Team Championships in Turkey next month fuelled by a lot of confidence from the performance today.
Connor Bell claimed a fourth successive national senior men’s discus title with a best of 57.83m. The performance was some way down on his season’s best of 65.93m and the fantastic consistency he had shown in his past four competitions this year, but he nonetheless maintained his unbeaten record this season and now leaves for a month training and competing in the US bolstered by that thought. Kieran Fowler of Otago (49.64m) nabbed silver 28cm ahead of Nathaniel Sulupo.
National 200m Para records were set in the heats of the senior women’s 200m as Anna Grimaldi lowered her seven-year-old national T47 record clocking a time of 25.95 (1.6) and in the following heat Danielle Aitchison set a national T36 record of 28.19 (-0.1). The 22-year-old Waikato Bay of Plenty sprinter, who lowered the world 100m T36 mark on Friday ran a brilliant race and came within 0.02 of completing a world record double, tantalisingly close to the five-month-old mark set by Yiting Shi of China.
Lauren Bruce claimed a hat-trick of national senior women’s hammer titles, powering the 4kg implement out to a best of 65.06m. The Oceania record-holder finished comfortably clear of Elizabeth Hewitt (51.80m) in silver ahead of Nadja Kumerich (51.62m).
Imogen Skelton (Auckland) picked up her first national senior women’s high jump title with a best of 1.85m to edge Keeley O’Hagan, the three times former New Zealand champion on countback.
Skelton’s first-time clearance at 1.85m compared to O’Hagan, who required a third effort to successfully negotiate that height, ultimately separated the pair. Both athletes looked in great nick with O’Hagan in particular coming very close with a couple of attempts at 1.88m but ultimately it was Skelton who added to her two national silver and one bronze medals she had previously snared. Naomi Waite (Wellington), the national U20 champion on Saturday with a PB and World U20 Performance standard of 1.80m, returned 24 hours later to take senior bronze with 1.78m
Josh Hawkins did not deliver the tidiest race but did more than enough to secure a ninth national senior men’s 110m hurdles title in a time of 14.03 (+0.5). The 30-year-old Aucklander clattered through the first couple of hurdles but finished strongly to bank gold medal. Jack Henry secured silver in 14.65 – 0.18 clear of fellow Cantabrian Masaki Tomooka the bronze medallist.
Former national long jump champion and current multi-events specialist Briana Stephenson (Hawkes Bay Gisborne) is a relatively newbie to the hurdles but looked like a veteran performer as she powered to victory in 13.94 (0.5) ahead of Aucklander Aliyah Johnson (14.21). National 400m hurdles champion Alessandra Macdonald, finished 0.01 further adrift for bronze.
Hannah Collins (Canterbury), 18, impressed to take out the women’s triple jump with a best of 12.45m (0.3) and defending champion James Steyn secured his fourth senior men’s pole vault crown with a best of 5.12m.
One of the most eagerly anticipated races on the programme certainly delivered as Jamie Mora (Auckland) claimed a convincing victory in the high-class men’s U20 1500m in a PB of 3:46.16. With seven men in the field having achieved the World U20 performance standard there is a little doubting the middle-distance stocks in New Zealand for the future look rosy.
With Daniel Prescott setting a searing pace at the front it was Mora who pounced in the final 200m to accelerate to victory from Canterbury’s 16-year-old talent Cooper Wightman (3:47.11), who also set a PB. Daniel Sinclair (Manawatu-Whangaui) clinched bronze in 3:47.71. The three podium dwellers all registering another World U20 performance standard mark.
Boh Ritchie executed a well-judged tactical race to surge to victory and complete the women’s U20 800m and 1500m double with a classy display to stop the clock in 4:35.02. Ritchie – who has World U20 performance standard in the former event – finished clear of Niamh Motley (Canterbury) who registered 4:35.45, who grabbed silver ahead of long-time leader and NZ U20mile champion Charo Heijnen (4:36.12).
Kadin Taylor (Auckland) staved off the challenge of AJ Mandono (Canterbury) by 0.09 to take the men’s U20 200m in a time of 21.57 (-0.1). Addira Collette upgraded on the silver medal she took last year in the women’s U20 200m to strike gold in 24.64 – by a 0.28 margin from national U20 400m champion Amelie Fairclough.
In the under-20 division, Holly Gray (Canterbury) claimed a big lifetime best to take out the women’s 100m hurdles title in 14.28 – 0.06 clear of Talia van Rooyen (Auckland) who grabbed silver.

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