Mathas just shy of Games' time
National champion Brad Mathas was berating himself for letting Nick Willis get away by a few metres down the final back straight of an 800m race at Massey University last night.
Willis went on to win safely by 0.70sec from Mathas whose 1min 49.04sec was agonisingly close to his goal.
The strapping Whanganui 19-year-old Mathas, in his first year out of Cullinane College where he was in the first XV, is a Massey extramural student in sport and management.
He was chasing a qualifying time for the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, in July and was just outside the Games standard of 1:49 flat. His personal best was 1:49.57 at Hamilton a year ago.
"I let him [Willis] go," said Mathas. "I wasn't sure whether I could hold that or not.
"I backed myself that if I had been on his shoulder I would have been able to beat him."
The other athletes, most from Wellington, had come to Palmerston North to help Mathas in his quest. Palmerston North sprinter Zac Topping had been the rabbit in what Willis called "perfect pace-making", scooting through the first 400m in 53 seconds.
A runner since he was 12, Mathas came out of juniors to win the national 800m senior men's title last year in 1:51.5.
"This was my best time for the season but at the same it was disappointing for not taking full advantage of the opportunity," he said.
"I've still got a few weeks until the nationals and I'm going to Sydney to run a couple of races over there."
Mathas is highly regarded with national backing, although he works three days a week installing TV aerials.
He was glad of the tough run last night. At most meets he wins the 800m by a few seconds.
In third place was 2010 England schools 1500m champion Sam Petty, who had beaten Mathas on grass at Christchurch last month when Petty fell over the line.
Petty is in Christchurch on a nine-month internship with Niwa, studying environmental science. His 800m best was 1:50.3 and last night's time was 1:51.55.
The 21-year-old hails from Devon but studies at the University of Birmingham, an athletics hub. "This was my fastest run in 2 years; I was very happy to get going again."
He figures it will be his quickest of the year because at the nationals, runners will be chasing places rather than times.
Last night's 800m times: Nick Willis 1:49.04 1, Brad Mathas 1:49.74 2, Sam Petty 1:51.55 3, Brent Henley 1:52.23 4, Ben Anderson 1:53.39 5, Tom Cornish 1:54.57 6, Matt Harris 1:54.66 7, Evan Cooper 1:55.01 8, Kieron McDonald 1:55.99 9.