Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Queen St Mile: Aussie wins elite sprint

NZ Olympian Lucy van Dalen finishes third behind training partners in women's race.

Photo / Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

Australian middle distance runner Ryan Gregson was fixed on racing the Queen St Golden Mile ever since the idea of bringing back the celebrated event was floated.

For Gregson, who won yesterday's elite men's race in a spectacular sprint finish, the pull was not so much the excitement of running a street course, but supporting one of his coach Nic Bideau's lifelong friends.

Bideau travelled a lot with Sir John Walker while he was competing in the 1980s, and credits this period with helping him develop many of his coaching techniques.

Gregson said the idea of helping support Sir John's Find Your Field of Dreams foundation, and honouring the man who has given his coach so much was what lured him to Auckland for the race.

"My coach has been lifelong friends with John Walker so this race has been in the plans for a while. It's just awesome to come over and support John's event and win it.

"I know they haven't had it in 30 years, but I hope it's not another 30 years before it comes back.

"If it's every year, I'd definitely come back."

Gregson won the men's race in an impressive time of 3 minutes 48.58 seconds over US runner Miles Batty (3:49.20) and Australian Collis Birmingham (3:50.40). New Zealand's Hamish Carson, who won the national 1500m title at Mt Smart last weekend, was the first Kiwi home in fifth place.

The three international runners set a furious pace down the Queen St course and were level pegging as they passed through the red gates on to Queen's Wharf, but it was Gregson who had the legs over the final 200m.

Starting off with a downhill stretch, the Queen St course is known to produce exceptionally fast times, but Gregson said he still got a shock to hear he had recorded a four-second personal best - "but I don't think it counts".

"I thought that was achievable, but to hear 3.48 over the speakers it's a bit of weird feeling - it's a very fast time."

Carson did well to push the leading men over the first 1.2km, but found the pace too tough as they reached the bottom of Queen St.

"I guess I just didn't have that zing in my legs, I was a bit disappointed with that, but I was beaten by some really world class competition," he said.

That final 400m stretch will also haunt London Olympian Lucy van Dalen, who finished third in the women's international event after dropping off the pace in the furious sprint to the finish.

The Kiwi athlete, who will head back to the US in a couple of weeks to compete on the track circuit there, was beaten by her training partners, Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands, and Australia's Zoe Buckman. The trio have been training in Melbourne over summer, and van Dalen convinced her friends to join her for the big race.

Kuijken, who finished in 4:17.18, said it was "very special, very humbling" to receive her medal from Kiwi middle distance hero, Sir John.

Queen St Golden Mile

Men

1. Ryan Gregson (Aust) 3m 48.58s
2. Miles Batty (USA) 3m 49.20s
3. Collis Birmingham (Aust) 3m 50.40s

Women

1. Susan Kuijken (Netherlands) 4m 17.18s
2. Zoe Buckman (Aust) 4m 17.67s
3. Lucy van Dalen (Wang) 4m 19.91s.

- NZ Herald

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