Eliza McCartney starred in more ways than one in the Atrium in Aucklands CBD Britomart complex on a warm summer Wednesday evening at the Les Mills supported Vertical Pursuit pole vault competition.
The Rio Olympic medallist won the hearts of the crowd who packed into the unusual pole vault venue with a portable wood and rubber runway, with the same endearing joy that she exhibited in Rio on her way to a stunning performance at her first Olympic Games.
She also vaulted like the true international athletes she is, clearing lower heights effortlessly and going on to reach a height of 4.70m, just 0.10m short of her New Zealand record set at the New Zealand championships in March 2016 and equalled at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Vaulting of a shortened runway to match the stage of her training programme, the 20 year old Devonport athlete thrilled the crowd with every attempt and showed just how much she was enjoying the unique venue and the supportive audience.
The clearance was her best off the 12 step run up and augers well for the rest of 2017 international season when she heads to Europe for the Northern summer season in preparation for the London World Championships.
"To be able to get up near my PB was just awesome," McCartney said after she soared over the 4.70 mark at her first attempt. "I'm super happy to be back up to the same heights even though I'm on a slightly shorter runup."
Morgann Leleux from USA finished second on a countback from Canadian Rio Olympic finalist Alysha Newman, both clearing 4.40m on their first attempts, but Newman had a couple if early misses at her opening height.
Top New Zealand junior Olivia McTaggart filled fourth place in her first senior international competition, getting over 4.10m.
The women vaulters will now move to Aucklands North Shore and compete in the Harcourts Cooper & Co pole vault at the Auckland Track Challenge on Sunday afternoon alongside the outanding international mens shot put field assembled pitting the Rio 2016 champion Ryan Crouser (USA) and New Zealands Diamond League and World Indoor Champion Tom Walsh and Kiwi wonder-kid Jacko Gill.
The mens pole vault contest saw winner Nick Southgate open his account at 5.00m, the same height that German runner up Vincent Hobbie exited to competition.
Southgate, just back from representing New Zealand in the Nitro Athletics Series in Australia went on to clear 5.20m and miss narrowly at 5.40. Hobbies best was 4.90m, while North Shore teenage James Steyn cleared 4.60m and went agonizingly close to 4.70 which would have equalled his personal best.
The event was deemed a big success by Athletics New Zealands Events Manager Gareth Archer.
"We wanted to put on an event to bring the sport to the public in a unique manner and highlight some of our amazing athletes," said Archer, "and I think tonight we certainly achieved that".
Auckland Track Challenge
AUT Millennium, 17 Antares Pl, Rosedale, Auckland
Sunday 26 February starts 2:30pm
Auckland Track Challenge Website: