• King and Queen of shot put headline national champs

King and Queen of shot put headline national champs

Much of the interest at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field Championships is likely to centre on the country’s king and queen of shot put, Tom Walsh and Dame Valerie Adams, when the event returns to the beautiful region of Hawke’s Bay this Friday and Saturday.

The national championship event, which dates back over 120 years and is one of New Zealand’s oldest sporting competitions, was last held in Hastings in the 2000/01 season and locals will be treated to many of the country’s finest athletes competing in their own backyard when it makes its eagerly-awaited return three days from now at Mitre 10 Park.

None can lay claim to being as decorated as Adams and Walsh (pictured above, photo John Faulkner)though, who have four Olympic medals and 11 senior world titles between them.

Both are heavily favoured to be crowned national champions yet again after coming into form at the sharp end of the season. Walsh has not been at his best for much of the campaign and surprisingly suffered four straight defeats to Jacko Gill before providing a timely reminder of his quality with a season’s best 21.60m to finally triumph over Gill at the Sir Graeme Douglas International recently in Auckland.

Adams (pictured below, photo John Faulkner) likewise produced a vintage display at the same event with her longest throw for five years, a whopping 19.65m.



Gill is unfortunately not competing in the national championships, leaving local hero Nick Palmer – who broke the 18m-mark for the first time at the Sir Graeme Douglas International – as the man most likely to get closest to Walsh.

Adams, who won her first national title back in 2001 and is looking to become national champion for the 17th time (including a hammer win in 2003), will meanwhile have promising youngsters Maddison Wesche and Kaia Tupu-South for company.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Bay and for athletics to be brought here,” Adams says.

“It’s a lovely place to compete – I have competed here before and I absolutely love it. Everyone will be able to see athletes performing to the highest of their ability, especially with this being an Olympic year.”

Also in the throws, Lauren Bruce, six-times runner-up in the senior hammer, is aiming to capture her first senior title. Bruce, who set the New Zealand record of 73.47m at the same venue in Hastings last September, has won her last six competitions. Julia Ratcliffe was out to 72.13m at the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Championships last month and comes into the event as five-times champion.

Camille Buscomb will be aiming to be the first female athlete to win three middle-distance titles in the 800m, 1500m and 5000m. Buscomb ran a personal best 1500m of 4:13.47 at the Porritt Classic, a 2:08.45 800m in Christchurch and has a best 5000m time of 14:58.59 from the Doha World Championships in 2019. Competition in the 800m and 1500m will come from defending 800m champion Katherine Camp and national 5000m champion Rebekah Greene. Camp has taken out the 800m for the last two years in times of 2:03.70 and 2:05.84.

Zoe Hobbs is favoured to make it five winning years in a row in the women’s 100m and, given favourable conditions, could give the New Zealand national record of 11.32 a nudge. Rosie Elliott, second, and Georgia Hulls, third, to Hobbs in both the 100m and 200m in Christchurch last year are both back and Hulls could give Hobbs a close run. At the Porritt Classic in Hamilton last month, Hulls, a host club competitor, narrowly edged out Hobbs in the 200m in 23.78.

The door is meanwhile wide open in the men’s sprints with Eddie Osei-Nketia absent due to competing in Australia, and Tiaan Whelpton and Joseph Millar both on the injured list. Millar would have been seeking his sixth national 100m title but twice national junior champion Cody Wilson now has an opportunity to make a name for himself.  

Hamish Gill, who previously starred as a sprinter, has only entered in the 400m, in which he has shone this year in his debut performances. The highlight was a 47.68 clocking at the Sir Graeme Douglas International last month.

Hamish Kerr is meanwhile knocking on the door of a Tokyo Olympic qualifier of 2.33m in the high jump and should go close to that in the process of retaining a title that would be his sixth in this event.

Portia Bing, who is also after an Olympic qualifier of 55.40 in the 400m hurdles, is likely to make it four years in a row for the gold medal.

Other athletes seeking to retain their titles are Anthony Nobilo for the third year in the hammer throw, Luke Mercieca in the 400m, Hayden Wilde in the 5000m, James Sandilands up against five-times previous champion Joshua Hawkins in the 110m hurdles, Ieuan van der Peet in the 3000m steeplechase, Alexander Parkinson up against New Zealand resident record holder Connor Bell in the discus throw, Felix McDonald in the long jump, Andrew Allan in the triple jump, Fiona Morrison going for her eighth 100m hurdles title, Amanda Holyer in the 3000m steeplechase, Napier Girls' High School product Briana Stephenson in the long jump, Josephine Reeves in the high jump and Imogen Ayris in the pole vault.

James Preston is favoured to claim his first 800m title while 2017 winner Eric Speakman, Oli Chignell and six-times winner Hamish Carson will provide a close race for the 1500m crown.

In the race walking, Courtney Ruske is down for the 3000m and 10,000m while the promising Lucas Martin, just 16-years-old, will look to underline his potential in the U-20 men’s 10,000m.