Athletics: Nick Willis makes history in Whanganui

Nick Willis, in second, on his way to completing another sub-four minute mile. Photo / Michael Dawson
Nick Willis, in second, on his way to completing another sub-four minute mile. Photo / Michael Dawson

Nick Willis last night showed at the mecca of New Zealand mile racing just why he has an Olympic Medal and three Commonwealth medals to his name as well as the national 1500m record.

Willis trounced the field of top New Zealanders and a few Australians at the Cooks Classic mile in Wanganui on Tuesday evening, running 3:55.56, and demonstrated why he is respected the world over for his middle distance running.

Running well inside the magic four minute mile barrier, the Michigan based Hutt Valley athlete became the first to record five sub four minute miles at Cooks Gardens, first made famous by Peter Snell when he broke the world record fifty four years ago.

Before the race, Willis was tied on four with another world mile record holder, Sir John Walker (1974 - 1985) and Hamish Christensen (1997 - 2001).

Behind Willis' 3:55.56, fellow Kiwis Hamish Carson (3:56.72) and Eric Speakman (3:57.30) ran personal bests to secure the 62nd and 63rd sub four minute miles at the renowned track.

Just outside the sought after time was Australian Craig Huffer (4:00.12) and NZ Commonwealth Games 1500m finalist Julian Matthews (4:00.86).

Te Awamutu athlete Katherine Marshall, now based in Wales, won the women's mile after a tussle with Australians Amelia Mazza-Downie and Heidi Demio. Marshall's winning time was 4:46.71.

Women's sprinters again took the limelight with Lucy Sheat storming home over 200m to beat Zoe Hobbs and Georgia Hulls in 24.31 into a brisk head wind.

The Marlborough athlete repeated the impressive finish she demonstrated over 100m in Hastings three days earlier.

Joseph Millar was equally impressive over 200m, winning the men's race with ease in 21.39, also into the wind.

Phil Simms (Hamilton) and Anna Percy (Christchurch) were winners in the 400m hurdles races stopping the clock at 52.55 and 62.42 respectively.

The men's javelin saw a close contest between two training partners with the master Stuart Farquhar just keeping ahead of his talented apprentice, 76.54 to 75.55, while Rotorua teen Melkorka Leggett-Hilmarsdott set a personal best 40.10 to win the women's competition.

Long Jump wins went to Jordan Peters (7.05m) and Kelsey Berryman (5.96m), while Scott Thomson (14.70m) and Atipa Mabonga (11.69m) took out the triple jumps. Peters also won the men's high jump at 1.93 with Phoebe Edwards clearing 1.65m to win the women's.

Scott Burch and Meg Hamilton-Reid were the fastest over 400m.

The circuit now moves to Wellington for the Capital Classic on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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