After sweeping the sprint events at the Australian Track and Field Championships,
a group of Kiwi women want to push for even bigger results - in a huge year for
New Zealand's fastest woman, Zoe Hobbs, took out the 100m final in Sydney in
11.17s, while compatriots Georgia Hulls (200m) and Isabel Neal (400m) beat
the Aussies to win their events.
And the 4x100m team of Hobbs, Hulls, Livvy Wilson and Rosie Elliott also broke
the national relay record in a time of 44.05s, as they beat their Australian rivals by
more than a second (45:48).
Portia Bing also claimed silver in the 400m hurdles, after qualifying with the
All the runners bar Elliott are coached by James Mortimer, a teacher at Diocesan
School for Girls - who works with his charges once he's finished his day job.
"I was super proud of the girls," Mortimer said. "To knock off all three sprints and
in some cases in quite convincing fashion and to beat some really good
"Then to cap it off with the record 4x100m relay win just topped off a great
The runners train together in the same group in Auckland and credit that as a big
part of their development.
Hulls said it's "invaluable" to run reps with the others.
"Like for me I do my shorter stuff with Livvy and Zoe, my longer stuff with Portia and Izzy and like, that's just so invaluable. You can't really put a price on that."
Mortimer gets plenty of credit too. Neal said their coach has "got the secret recipe".
"He knows us all very well individually, he knows our strengths, our weaknesses
and just kind of caters to us really individually, which is cool."
"But again, we've got such a great squad," Neal said. "You know, really speedy
100 girls like Zoe, through to 400 hurdlers like Portia, there's such a variety, there's
always someone to run a rep with in training so it's great for us all I think - pushing
each other, day in, day out."
Hulls moved up to Auckland in 2018 just so she could train with Mortimer and the
"He's so good at finding that balance and the balance of training as hard as you can
without breaking, and being sustainable and finding a balance outside," Hulls said.
"I think that's really what sets him apart."
There are three big events on the horizon - the Oceania Championships in June, the World Championships in Oregon in mid-July and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games two weeks later.
So far Hobbs and Bing have qualified for both the world champs and Commonwealth Games, while Hulls is on track to make the start line in Oregon on ranking at this stage.
But she's hoping to qualify automatically by running another 200m PB this weekend at the Brisbane Track Classic, after winning in 23:17s in Sydney.
The B standard to qualify for Birmingham (two B standard results are required) is
22:80s - which would also automatically qualify her for the world champs. The New Zealand record is 22:90.
And conditions in Brisbane usually mean fast times, with great competition expected at the prestigious meet.
"I think it's very realistic," Hulls said. "It's not a small drop but I think just with
my progression and my averages that it's very in the question sort of thing. Just got
to do it, I guess."
Whoever makes the start line for this year's pinnacle events, Neal is sure it's a golden age right now in this country.
"I think something's in the water in New Zealand," she said. "There's just so much
depth within New Zealand female sprinting at the moment, it's so cool, because
we're all just able to push each other and hopefully further develop our speed
really, it's awesome."