What a difference a day might have made, as the gust cold winds on Tuesday at the Cooks Classic gave way to a warm, still evening on Wednesday which would have been perfect for athletes, officials and spectators.

The gusty winds and cold conditions may have cost Nick Willis a Cooks Gardens 1500m record, but even in difficult conditions the track lived up to its reputation as a special place for middle-distance runners.

Willis, who has run under four minutes for a record five times on the Whanganui track, may have missed the mark set by Auckland's Peter O'Donoghue in 1984, but his time of 3m 41.70s is an equivalent of yet another sub 4-minute performance and provided a great race.

It was an excellent work out for the USA-bound Willis.


There was, however, one record broken in that race and that was from the outstanding young Tauranga athlete Sam Tanner, who broke the New Zealand Under 19's 1500m record with his 3m 43.01s performance.

Significantly, that record had been held by the man two places ahead of him, as Willis' NZ Under 19 record stood at 3m 43.73s.

Hannah O'Connor made a victorious return to Cooks Gardens, winning the 3000m Under 20 title in an excellent 9m 36.92s, and although this was outside her own stadium record it was nevertheless an outstanding effort.

Kirstie Rae (Wellington) appreciated the special atmosphere of Cooks by taking 24 seconds off her previous best, claiming silver in 9m 43.38s to run under 10 minutes for the first time.

The 3000m Under 20 men's New Zealand Championship, won by Sam Hyde-Smith (Wellington), provided a great race with only six seconds separating the leading five athletes.

Whanganui's Andres Hernandez was a little disappointed as he allowed the pace to drop in the middle stages, but can gain some consolation by going to the head of the national Under 18 rankings early in the calendar year, while Whanganui's 15-year-old George Lambert took 10 seconds off his previous best to finish with 9m 5.05s.

As the Meeting Manager in the middle of the stadium, I only manage to get a few snapshot images of the action unfolding.

Hamish Kerr
Hamish Kerr

One such snapshot was being alongside the high jump to see Christchurch's Hamish Kerr impressively clear 2.22m to break his own jointly stadium record, which stood at 2.17m.


Spectators close to the high jump were given outstanding commentary by high jump coach and former New Zealand champion Terry Lomax.

Kerr narrowly failed to clear 2.26m (one centimetre above his best) but although sustaining a slight injury in the attempt, this effort suggests that Glen Howard's New Zealand record and world class leap of 2.30m is under threat.

Another early snapshot was the mixed 400m hurdles, where all but one of the athletes were running the one lap hurdle event for the first time, having moved up from the less demanding 300 metre hurdles at Under 18 level.

Connor Munro should be delighted with his debut, winning the race in 58.42s and heading off former Whanganui athlete Richmond Wells, who was the only athlete with 400m hurdle experience.

Connor Munro won the 400m hurdles.
Connor Munro won the 400m hurdles.

Sophie Redmayne should also be encouraged by her win in the women's division and looks set to make significant progress in this demanding event.

The Under 18's 100m did live up to its expectations and was an event I made sure I was able to watch.

Although the largely cross wind was slightly above the legal limit, the athletes should be delighted with their times in cold conditions which did not favour top performance.

Sophie Williams, returning from her victory at the Colgate Games, won the race from training partner Genna Maples, who had led the field through 80m metres, with 400m runner Tayla Brunger providing a Whanganui trifecta.

Aria Carroll (Canterbury) currently on the Aspiring Athletes Tour which was in the city, should be delighted with her fourth place, only two one hundredths below her fastest 100m performance.

I was able to see more of the pre-meet long jump and in the close competition between Jordan Peters and Argentinian Nico Martella, it was Peters who won with a 7.30m leap, while Genna Maples took out the women's division.

One event that I did not see was the winning women's discus effort of Spain's Olympian Sabina Asenjo-Alvarez, with a 54.65m performance.

It was a pity that Siositina Hakeai, who had finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games, entered this event but was a non-starter.

The Cooks Gardens Classic again delivered in cold gusty conditions.

The only disappointment was the very modest number of spectators present.

It is hoped the sun will shine in March and the Sports Heritage Trust Sir Peter Snell Meeting sees the stadium full on March 2.