Fifteen centimetres is all that separated Rio Olympian Eliza McCartney from joining an exclusive duo of outdoor and an indoor group of pole vaulters to have scaled 5m when she competed for the first time in five months in Hastings tonight.
McCartney, relishing the gentle easterly breeze on her back, had to settle for 4.85m at the 20th edition of the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park.
"I was going for five metres and it's a pretty big barrier for us women in pole vault," said the 22-year-old Aucklander with her trademark infectious smile after eclipsing the Potts Classic record of 4.7m she established last year.
The army of clapping fans parked on the embankment fuelled her through her full run up on the runway but it was not to be for the Jeremy McColl-coached athlete who was returning to the competitive arena for the first time since picking up a 2018 season-ending heel injury in Birmingham five months ago.
"They are very respectful, very encouraging and enthusiastic so that's all you can ask for," McCartney said of the spectators here.
"It was just great to be back at the Potts Classic in Hastings. It never disappoints and most pole vaulters just love it here."
Rio Olympian Wilma Murto, of Finland, was second at 4.41m and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games representative Olivia McTaggart, of North Harbour Bay Athletics, was third at 4.31m.
McCartney, also a North Harbour Bay Athletics member, thanked the foreign delegation of pole vaulters who added spice to the discipline.
"To have two groups of internationals come here - nobody used to come to New Zealand and now we've got different countries wanting to come to New Zealand so that's a testament to Jeremy McColl."
She said people were gravitating towards the squad and programme McColl had developed in pole vaulting.
"This is the third time I've looked at five metres and one of those times I didn't even attempt it so this is the second competition I've properly attempted it and every time it gets easier and every time I'm getting more confident so it'll come," she said, disclosing her last one was at a meeting in Germany last year when she was exhausted but today she was fresh as a daisy.
Only two to three weeks ago she had nagging doubts about competing but McColl's stable had other ideas.
"I've got an amazing medical team around me," she said, revealing her physiotherapist had accompanied her during the week-long camp in Hastings which the pole vaulters "absolutely love".
"It was perfect conditions here," she said with a laugh, conveniently turning a blind eye to the gusty westerlies on Wednesday. "It's always perfect conditions but I shouldn't say that."
In her self-appraisal, McCartney safely opted for a "full tick" because she was back for starters, on a new run up and was using bigger poles.
"All of those things are really so new to me so that the fact that I cleared 4.85, I'm really happy because I feel like I'm still adjusting to the new run up."
In making a bold declaration, she felt she didn't need to to do anything more to eclipse the 5m height.
"I just need to do it. I've looked at it for years. I've known I've been capable of it but I've only had two close looks at 5m so it's all there and I just haven't done it yet."
A beaming McCartney said she would love to claim that milestone in New Zealand where she had an entire season beckoning.
"That would be awesome because this is where my support team is and my family is and this is where all the people I train with are so I just think it'll be the best outcome."
No doubt, if it happened abroad she would gleefully take it, too.
Key event for McCartney this year will be the New Zealand championship in Christchurch in March, the Australian nationals a month later and world championship in Qatar in September/October.
Murto, who is on a short run up, said it was a hard day for her because she wasn't feeling 100 per cent.
"I think I'm a still a bit jetlagged so it's been a very long trip," said the 20-year-old who had competed in Australia before arriving here although she was in Auckland last year but couldn't compete because she was injured.
However, Murto was happy with her effort and, if she has her way, would love to return to Hastings.
Her stable mate and compatriot, Tomas Wecksten, cleared 5.21m with James Steyn but won the men's pole vault on a countback by virtue of doing it in his first hoist while the North Harbour Bay athlete did it in his second attempt.
Nick Southgate, also of North Harbour Bays, was third at 5.06m. The winning height was shy of the record 5.65m Tobias Scherbath, of Leverkusen, set last year.
In the big boys' circle, world No 1 shot putter Tom Walsh predictably won with a 21.38m throw, eclipsing his own meeting record of 21.14m set last year.
Jacko Gill, of Takapuna Amateur Athletics, was second with a throw of 20.29m.
Walsh was pretty happy with his effort in his maiden outing this season, considering he had two other throws past the 21m mark.
"It's always a great comp and I do love coming to Hawke's Bay," said the Olympian who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics who revealed he couldn't turn down the carrots Sir Graeme Avery had dangled in front of him to return.
The South Canterbury Athletics Club member said stepped in the circle with the intention of nailing 21.20m to 21.80m.
"I was really close and did everything close to my thought patterns and with three throws I did exactly what I wanted to but I just didn't quite get one today."
The 26-year-old said his next meeting would be the nationals in Christchurch.
"My house is completed, my backyard is done and now I've got a nice new puppy, Rippa, and he's a golden retriever who's good fun," Walsh said with a wide smile.
Gill said his best throw was a shade under what he was hoping for but it was good to be back.
A former world youth and junior championship record holder, the Aucklander was dignosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart caused by a virus in December 2017, which has curtailed his promising shot put career.
"I would have liked to have gone up to 20.80, to be honest, so it was a good surface and conditions but it was not bad for a first effort."
Gill has bracketed the Porritt Classic in Hamilton in a fortnight before joining Walsh in Christchurch for the nationals. He hopes to compete in Europe during the southern hemisphere winter.
The 24-year-old, who won the shot put here from 2014-17, said it was his fifth Potts Classic and he always loved it, thanks to organiser Richard Potts and his army of loyal volunteers.
Angela Petty clinched her ninth Sylvia Potts Classic 800m crown when she clocked 2m 03.79s to finish almost 10m ahead of Kara Macdermid, of Palmerston North, at 2:10.36.
Petty fell just shy of eclipsing her own record of 2:03.67 established in 2017 although her mate and last year's champion, Katherine Camp, would have boosted her cause.
"She was entered in the race initially but she went to Canberra on Monday instead, which is fair enough because Canberra would be a fairly good race," the University of Canterbury club member said of Camp from Hamilton who had beaten her at the Capital Classic in Wellington a fortnight ago.
"It would have been great to have her today but I'm pretty happy with today."
The Rio Olympian said she simply had to keep an honest p[ace in the young field and go hard.
Grappling with an Achilles injury for the past month, Petty had been focusing on her speed work and her next big meeting is the world champs.
"I really, really want to break two minutes this year," she said, echoing the sentiments of others on a great Potts Classic and harbouring a desire to return next year in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Her husband, Sam Petty, had to settle for second place on 1:50.93, behind Samuel Tanner, of Tauranga Ramblers, who clocked 1:50.16.
Tanner is the NZ Secondary School 1500m champion who beat Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis in the 800m race at the Capital Classic.
Homeboy Matthew Taylor, representing the Hastings Harrier Club United, bided his time on the shoulder of Oska Baynes (14:36.77), of Canterbury, to clinch the 5000m men's race in 14:32.47.
Taylor, who left Hastings to work and study in construction management in Auckland in 2012, smashed the previous record of 14:39.19 Michael Marantelli, of Australia, set in 2017 but the former Lindisfarne College pupil wasn't aware of it straight after the race.
"I don't think that's what I wanted but it was pretty gusty conditions because everybody seemed to be struggling to keep up with the pace," the 24-year-old said after he, Baynes and Michael Voss (14:39.66), of Lake City Athletic Club, broke away early from the peloton of six others.
Taylor's PB was 14:40 before today and thanked Baynes for keeping up the cracking pace.
"I was very happy to be running at home so Richard's done a fantastic job in setting up this and I think it's the best classic held around the country," he said, saluting the fans who turned out to make it a humming meeting.
Taylor hopes to make the qualifying times in the 5000m and 1500m for the world university games.
He found the athletics regime was a great stress buster for someone who was burning the candles at both ends.
"Some days it gets hard but it really relaxes you and helps you with your work and studies," Taylor said.
In the high-twitch fibre zone, Jordan Bolland, of Takapuna, equalled the classic record time of 10.64s that Hamish Gill, of North Harbour Bays, clocked today as well as in 2016 but the old mark stood because it had only 0.9 wind assistance compared to a stiffer wind today.
Alexander Dawson, of Marlborough Athletics, clocked 10.73s to finish third.
In the senior women's equivalent, Zoe Hobbs, of North Harbour Bays, got on the top perch of the podium at a time of 11.37s with club mate Livvy Wilson clocking 11.77s and Leah Belfield, of Te Awamutu Athletics, third in 11.92s.
Hobbs eclipsed Lucy Sheat's classic time of 11.68s set in 2016 with a 1.9 wind assistance.
In the senior 400m men's race, Josh Ledger, of Upper Hutt AC, was first in 49.44s, meaning the 2016 classic record of 48.02 that Alexander Carew, of Australia, set in 2016 remained intact.
Brayden Grant, of Palmerston North, and Conor McGiven, of Hamilton, followed in 50.21s and 50.89s, respectively.
Charlotte Holland, of Auckland City AC, was the 400 women's champion in 56.75s, ahead of Takapuna's Brooke Cull (56.95) and Whanganui's Tayla Brunger (57.18), failing to eclipse Portia Bing's classic record time of 53.86s set last year.