They had to adapt to the change of scenery and conditions, but the athletes trying to get to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games gave their best at the Team Ledger Bayleys "Not in the" Capital Classic at Cooks Gardens on Saturday evening.
After Wellington's Newtown track was deemed unfit for competition, the track and field events were moved to Whanganui for the first of two major national-level events in the space of four days.
In warm and windy conditions, no athletes managed to reach the A and B Standard times and distances to automatically qualify for the Gold Coast in April, however the leading stars showed they are a step ahead of their domestic competition.
In the women's discus, Mangere's Siositina Hakei, 24, comfortably had the distance over Waitakere rival Te Rina Keenan, 28, as well as up-and-coming Te Aroha teenager Tatiana Kaumoana.
In their six throw competition, which also included St Paul's Emma Ryan, Hakeai cleared Keenan's opening 50.48m throw by nearly 4m in her first attempt, with Kaumoana showing some potential when her initial efforts in the 44m mark.
Hakeai stayed avove the 54m mark for the rest of the competition, minus a 'no throw' on her third attempt, and hit the top distance in the fifth round with a 55.04m effort.
Keenan's best was ultimately a 52.64m throw, also in the fifth round, and nowhere near Hakeai's standard for the afternoon.
However, the windy conditions conspired to prevent Hakeai from reaching her 59.81m personal best, let alone the official 59.3m Commonwealth Games standard for qualifying.
"It was consistent [throws], I wish the wind was on our side," she said afterwards.
"Hopefully I'll get it in Hastings."
Hakeai, who had to fly into Wellington as originally planned and then arranged another flight to get to Whanganui, now had a long drive home to Auckland and so was skipping the Cooks Garden Classic before rejoining at the Potts Classic in the Hawke's Bay.
Everything in her mind was geared towards April.
"Definitially [Gold Coast]. Hopefully I'll get it in the next few camps coming up."
To put it in prospective, Hakeai's 55.04m throw into the wind was better than both the male discus competitors who attended as North Harbour clubmates Connor Bell and Alexander Parkinson reached 54.93m and 54.19m respectively – an hour after the women's event.
In the women's 1500m trial race, Canterbury's Angela Petty smoked the competition but not the stopwatch after a convincing win in 4m 20.75s, with North Harbour's Esther Keown well back in second while Wellington's Tina Faulkner showed good heart to overtake and get up for third right at the finishline.
The 27-year-old Petty, already qualified for the Gold Coast in the 800m, ran the whole race in the lead and was all by herself going into the strong wind on the final laps.
Her personal best of 4m 7.83s is just shy of the Commonwealth Games standard, but when she entered the finishing straight at Cooks Gardens Petty was already over the four minute mark.
"[Preparation]'s going really well. It's a little dissappointing," she said.
"It made it tougher for us out there."
Cooks Classic organiser Alec McNab said the athletes efforts were not too bad considering the late notice for the change of venue.
"Even managed to put a tail wind on for them."
McNab arranged for the 200m events to be reconfigured so they began down at the 400m starting blocks, so the runners did not have to face the head wind.
Nonethless, the strength of the wind at their backs was now above the allowable at 3.0m per second when it came to reaching A and B Commonwealth Games standards.
Still, Tauranga's national champion Joseph Millar chose to compete and showed his ability as he ran an excellent race in the final, winning in 20.68s, which was just 0.24s outside of official Commonwealth Games B standard.
With his strong kick to finish, the 26-year-old was ahead of North Harbour's 23-year-old William Smart in second and Wellington's 21-year-old Alex Haye in third.
It was the performance of the night.
Earlier, Millar ambled to a win in the Men's 100m, going against the head wind to record a 11.25s time, ahead of Christchurch 26-year-old Scott Walker and Smart.
Lucy Sheat, 19, convincingly won a Women's 200m final that three competitors withdrew from beforehand, recording a 23.6s time ahead of Hill City's Fiona Centers and South Canterbury's Anna Hayward.
North Harbour's Zoe Hobbs, expected to be a 200m contender, instead just did the 100m, winning in 12.10s going into the wind, ahead of clubmate Livvy Wilson and Christchurch's Kelsey Berryman.
The Men's 800m trial was won by Wellington's national junior record holder James Preston in 1m 51.05s from Christchurch's Sam Petty's and Wellington's Hector Farmer in third place.
Christchurch's Matt Walsh won the Men's long jump in a handy 6.90m in the men's long jump while St Paul's Emma Ryan had the longest throw in the combined shot put.
The Classic series continues to tomorrow with the regularly scheduled Cooks Classic in Whanganui.