The wind died at the start of Saturday’s inaugural Harold Nelson Classic, and the Athletics Nelson competitors sprang to life.
Brendon Barnett smashed his own New Zealand age 17 long jump record on his first jump and broke it again on his second attempt. Alex Jordan burst ahead of a New Zealand junior record holder in dominating the 100m and 200m. Chris Brake leapt over 1.90m in the high jump, and Craig Lautenslager’s victory climaxed a series of dramatic 1500m races which would have brought a smile to the meet’s namesake.
Meet announcer Vern Mardon paid a touching tribute to Nelson, the club’s esteemed 1948 Olympian and 1950 British Empire Games six-mile champion who died in July, and introduced Nelson’s daughter, Gay Bull, and former pupils and Athletics Nelson coaches to the crowd seated at the Saxton Field athletics track.
Perhaps, Nelson had something to do with calming the winds that blew strongly for three straight days in the Nelson region. They still gusted to 40 kilometres an hour within 30 minutes of the 5.30pm start of the meet. But the wind suddenly changed from the south to the north, and Barnett found himself jumping with a light prevailing wind blocked by a large row of trees beyond the stadium.
His 7.34m opener brought a roar from the crowd and a 2cm improvement on the New Zealand age 17 record he set at the Athletics Nelson twilight series meet on November 4. He got a bigger roar when he went 7.36m on his second jump.
Barnett jumped 7.01m on his fourth jump before saving himself for the New Zealand secondary schools’ athletics championships on December 10-11 in Wellington, where he will defend his seniors title. Brake finished second in 6.45m and then won the high jump in a personal record of 1.90m, which equals New Zealand’s top M16 mark this season.
The crowd noise went louder when Jordan soared around the turn in the 200m and into the home stretch. He crossed the finish line in 21.52sec – well clear of New Zealand M19 400m hurdles record holder and Tauranga competitor Michael Cochrane, who was nosed out for second by Nelson’s Alistair Adams.
Jordan later won the 100m in 10.80sec, his fastest since January and then teamed with Cochrane to win the 2 x 100m in 22.33sec. Adams followed his 200m personal best of 23.30sec to win the 400m in 51.89sec.
In the women’s sprints, Hazel Bowering-Scott returned to competition by winning the 200m in 27.23sec, just ahead of Claire Erasmus, and was upset in the 100m by Deirdre Anderson. Anderson, the former Nelson College for Girls competitor who competes for the Taieri Athletics Club in Dunedin, opened with 16.50m to almost beat the top men’s runner, Keegan Fisher, in the 100m hurdles.
Jess Martin led from start to finish in her first-ever 1500m and won the women’s race by six seconds in 4min 54.57sec. Thomas Andersen duplicated Martin’s feat but had to hold off team-mates Josh Barry and Jeff Lautenslager in a furious home stretch run. Andersen (4min 11.50sec), Barry (4min 12.05sec), Lautenslager (4min 12.64sec), and Hugo Lawrence (4min 24.03sec) all achieved personal bests. Lautenslager improved his best time by 21sec.
In the men’s A race Peter Meffan passed the pacemaker, Ewoud Noordeloos, after 700m and opened 30m on the field. Craig Lautenslager chased him down and went by with 300m left, followed by team-mate Tom Stringer and University of Canterbury’s Brett Clifford.
Stringer pulled alongside Craig as they entered the home stretch, but Craig found another gear and powered ahead to win by two metres. Craig (3min 59.06sec) and Stringer (3min 59.32sec) broke four minutes for the first time and now are second and third on the New Zealand M19 rankings for this season.
Clifford (4min 1.26sec), Meffan (4min 5.81sec), and Mike Lowe (4min 8.02sec) also set personal bests.
Dale Pritchard dominated the throwing events, winning the shot put with 14.01m and the discus with 43.77m. Courtney Clarke threw 35.87m to win the women’s discus.