Athletics: Willis and Adams show way in Sydney

Nick Willis and Valerie Adams headlined the Sydney Track Classic last night with commanding performances. Photo / Getty Images.
Nick Willis and Valerie Adams headlined the Sydney Track Classic last night with commanding performances. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand's Olympic medallists Nick Willis and Valerie Adams headlined the Sydney Track Classic last night with commanding performances, winning their events in style and bagging world championships A qualifying performances, but there were excellent performances from Kiwi athletes.

Alongside the expected victories of Adams and Willis came starring performances from Michael Cochrane in the 400 metres hurdles, Tom Walsh in the shot put and Liz Lamb in the high jump. There was also a second place to hurdler Fiona Morrison and third placings to Brad Mathas, 800 metres and Sarah Cowley in the high jump.

Willis sat on the solid pace provided by world class Australian distance runner Collis Birmingham and was able to sprint past Australian record holder Ryan Gregson on the last lap, to reach his aim for the meeting, a 2013 Moscow World Championships A qualifier in 3 minutes 34.68 seconds. The time was a meeting record. Willis now returns to his home in Michigan to plot his attack on the world championship 1500 metres in August with coach Ron Warhurst and to await the birth of his first child in July.

Adams was never going to be troubled to win against a modest field and admitted to feeling a bit flat, but still produced a consistent series between 19.45 metres and her fifth round toss of 20.02 metres. Adams next competition will be at Mt Smart in Auckland at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships in two weeks. Adams will be shooting for her 12th senior New Zealand shot put title.

Michael Cochrane has some very good times over 400m hurdles this summer, but nothing indicated he was ready for a big breakthrough, taking 0.55 seconds off his previous best and beating a quality field including two Australian Olympians and a class American in the process.

Cochrane's time is an A qualifier for the World Student Games later this year and is just 0.47 seconds away from the B qualifier for the Moscow world champs. He is now the country's third fastest ever in the event. Cochrane will attempt the senior hurdles double in two weeks at the New Zealand championships.

With the men's shot put running in tandem with the women's event, New Zealand's second ranked male putter, Walsh had someone to chase in Adams, throwing from the same circle. Walsh used the Adams target effectively, reaching 19.81 metres, just 21cm behind Adams and a narrow 2cm below his personal best. He won the competition, 1.36 metres clear of the best Australian Damien Birkinhead. Walsh is closing in on the world championships B standard of 20.10 metres and although just days past his 21st birthday, he will be competing for his fourth New

Zealand senior shot put title in two weeks.

New Zealand's fifth victory for the night went to high jumper Liz Lamb, whose chief opposition was fellow teammate Sarah Cowley. Lamb cleared 1.84 metres, 3 cm clear of Cowley who was relegated to third place on a countback.

Apart from Cochrane, three other New Zealand athletes recorded personal bests in the perfect conditions.

New Zealand women's 100m hurdles champion Fiona Morrison trimmed 0.12 seconds from her personal best to record 13.48 seconds in finishing second place.

Brad Mathas, the current New Zealand 800m champion finished a very respectable 3rd in 1 minute 49.34 seconds, his best ever time.

In the last race of the night, in-form New Zealand sprinter Joseph Millar, the 2012 Australian 200m champion and New Zealand 100m/200m title holder, could not foot it with the fastest Australians, but still produced a personal best of 20.81 seconds. Millar will be favoured to retain his sprint double crown at the New Zealand championships.

- APNZ

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