McDonald to pin his hopes on the 800m

TIM BARTON
Last updated 09:17 28/11/2012
Kieron McDonald
MAARTEN HOLL
Rising to challenge: Prominent Wellington athletes, from left, James Fletcher, Nathan Tse, Marcus Karamanolis, Kieron McDonald and Nicholas Pointon will be among those competing at the New Zealand secondary schools championships in Dunedin.

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Kieron McDonald will go only half the distance this year.

McDonald, the 2010 New Zealand secondary schools 1500m champion, will end his school career by tackling the 800m at the 2012 schools championships, in Dunedin next month.

The Scots College athlete also contested the 1500m last year, finishing third, and was the junior 1500m champion in 2009.

He has not contested the 800m at the championships since 2008, his first year at secondary school.

The compressed nature of the two-day meeting means it is difficult to attempt both the 800m and 1500m.

"We are trying something different this year," McDonald's coach, Graham Tattersall, said. "He's won the senior boys' 1500m and it would be nice for him to get an 800m title as well."

McDonald has competed in the 800m at three regional meetings over the last few weeks, winning comfortably at each meeting and in good time.

He recorded 1min 53.75sec for 800m at Palmerston North on October 27, 1:55.19 in windy conditions at Whanganui and 1:53.95 when he returned to Palmerston North last weekend.

His time at the first Palmerston North meeting was the third- fastest of his career and he hasn't been far away from his personal best of 1:52.7.

"They have really only been time trials," said Tattersall, who believes McDonald is capable of running 1:52 in Dunedin. "I think he's in that sort of form and, if he can do that, he should be too good for them."

McDonald, the College Sport Wellington boys' athlete of the year in 2011 and 2012, is seeking a fourth national secondary schools title, his first coming in the year 9 road race in 2008.

He regards the 2009 championships as probably the high point, when he was part of a memorable 1500m double for Scots College, with McDonald's junior title matched by Nathan Barrett's victory in the senior 1500m.

Hamilton's Scott Hilliar, the runner-up to McDonald in 2009, is expected to provide the main opposition again next month.

Hilliar beat McDonald in the under-20 800m at the New Zealand athletics championships in March, but McDonald won their most recent clashes, taking the 800m and 1500m titles at the North Island secondary schools meeting.

McDonald, 18, will stay in Wellington to study commerce at Victoria University next year.

"I want to stay with Graham [Tattersall] and I'm not rushing off to the States at this stage."

The Australian junior championships, in Perth in March, will be McDonald's first big target in 2013.

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He would like to reduce his personal bests to 3:47 (1500m) and 1:49 (800m) over the next year and the longer term goal is the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"I would have to make quite large improvements to make the Commonwealth Games but, if you have a good season, that can come pretty quickly."

Wellington competitors should make a mark in the middle- distance races at Dunedin, with Ariana Harper (Wellington Girls') tackling both the 800m and 1500m in the senior girls.

Harper, who does not turn 18 till January, was the top-ranked athlete at both distances in the women's 17 division this year and has been in good form at the regional meetings.

"I've only got one medal - bronze in the junior 1500m - at the secondary schools meetings and it would be good to finish [my school career] on a high," Harper said.

"It's quite tough to do both the 800m and 1500m but not impossible. I've done it before and I want to get on the podium in both races. If I could medal in both races, I would be happy with that.

"I've been quite happy with my times and my iron levels have been a bit low, so I've got two weeks to try to get them up."

Harper rates Te Aroha College's Kerry White as likely to provide the toughest opposition in the 800m and expects to meet outstanding cross-country runner Rosa Flanagan, from Christchurch, in the 1500m. "I will try to stick on Rosa's shoulder and hope that I can outsprint her over the last 200m."

Marcus Karamanolis (St Pat's Town), who won the junior 1500m last year, should run well when he tackles the senior 1500m for the first time but Nick Pointon (Scots), who had hoped to be a threat in the 800m, has had his preparation hampered by a hamstring injury.

James Fletcher (Scots) and Tom Caughley (Scots) could feature in the junior distance races, and twins Fa'aolataga and Mafutaga Tau (St Pat's Town) should be competitive in the junior sprints.

Anna Thomson, a year 12 at Aotea College, will be a leading contender for the senior girls triple jump.

- The Dominion Post

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