Cooks Gardens once again demonstrated that there is no better track in New Zealand to run top middle-distance races.
All the top eight set personal bests in the New Zealand under-20 3000 metres and a further four personal bests were set by the 18 strong field.
Right on cue the strong afternoon breeze dropped and unusually at the iconic track the lighter wind came from the southeast giving sprinters a good but legal tail wind.
Edward Osei-Nketia grasped the opportunity and after a slow start overhauled fellow New Zealand international Joseph Millar over the final metres to record a stadium junior (under-20) record and in the process pocketed the $250 record bonus with his winning time of 10.62. His father's senior record of 10.49 will have to wait for another time.
Osei-Nketia and Millar combined in the 2 x 100 but had to bow to the superior baton change of the Mana team of Isaac Oliver and Cody Wilson.
Georgia Hulls (Hastings) took the women's title and should be pleased with her 11.82 which was less than a 1/10th of a second outside Mindy Slomka's stadium record set in 2000.
Whanganui athlete Tayla Brunger set a personal best of 12.10 in coming second and has gone straight to the top of the 2020 under-20 rankings. Later in the evening she finished second in her mixed 400m heat of the handicap 400m with another sub 56 clocking 55.67.
The popularity of the handicap was evident by the 26 entries. Monique Whiteman (Palmerston North) won on handicap with less than a second separating the leading half dozen athletes on corrected handicap times.
Osei-Nketia however, did not provide the first record of the evening. That came five minutes before Nketia stepped into his blocks over at the high jump. Quinn Hartley, winner of the New Zealand Schools junior title, cleared a personal best 2.04m to not only take a Cooks Gardens under-20 record but also a Southland record.
International Hamish Kerr won the event at 2.12m. He did have a jump at 2.23 in an attempt at his own stadium record. The initiative of holding a jumps camp at Whanganui Collegiate by Terry Lomax (Athletics New Zealand lead jumps coach) guaranteed great fields especially in the women's event which attracted a classy and competitive field of nine athletes.
The event was won on countback by New Zealand junior record holder Josephine Reeves from Keely O'Hagan after a tight and exciting battle. The "Jumps to Music" event in Hawera will also benefit from the camp. Younger athletes and their coaches attended a special jumps clinic conducted by Ed Fern from Hawera who was in Whanganui for the camp and organised by Jodie Brunger.
The" Fastest Kid on the Block" again proved popular when over quarter of an hour young excited athletes proudly dressed in their bright district colours sped down the track in six exciting races over 80 and 100 metres. The Bayleys event supported by the Splash Centre, Cookie Time and Mount View Screenprints was again a highly successful part of the evening with Eastern from Taumarunui taking team honours.
The traditional Cooks Gardens Mile will not be run until Saturday, March 15 at the Sir Peter Snell Meeting when it returns as a national championship after half a century.
There was however, a mile on the programme in the shape of a medley relay (880 yards, 440yds, 220yds 220yds) when teams attempted to break what was then a world record set by a team from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at the end of the First World War in London.
Their time in 1919 was a then world record and the quality of that team was highlighted by the fact that a team that contained New Zealand's two leading sprinters (Osei-Nketia and Millar), New Zealand decathlete champion Max Attwell and promising young senior middle distance runner William Sinclair failed to beat the 1919 mark.
The 3000m under-20 New Zealand championship proved to be a competition highlight. The field set a fast pace right from the start with an opening lap in 61 seconds.
Liam Back stuck close to the early pace set by Will Anthony with a group of athletes that included Liam Lamb and Andres Hernandez in close formation.
The pace remained hot throughout until in the closing stages when Lamb outsprinted the by then smaller lead group to win with a 26 second best (8:24.79 ) breaking the Cooks Gardens under-20 record by 8s from Will Anthony (8:26.00 ) and a tired Liam Back (8:32.26). Andres Hernandez was fourth (8:33.89).
All the leading eight set best performances with a further four from the rest of the field.
Cooks Gardens once again lived up to its strong middle-distance tradition.