Hamilton's Jacob Priddy described his victorious, yet gruelling home-stretch run at Saturday's Athletics New Zealand junior 3000 metres championships at the Saxton Field Athletics Track in one word.
Athletics Nelson's Mike Lowe put Priddy through the torture test with a burst 700m from the finish line that left Priddy barely clinging on. Priddy came up onto Lowe's shoulder at the top of the home-stretch only to have his rival hold him off.
But Priddy fought back once more and finally pulled ahead of Lowe in the final 20m.
He finished in a personal best and Saxton track record of 8min 34.28sec, collapsed onto the track, and lay there for 10 minutes.
"It was the kind of a race where he who wants it the most, wins," said Lowe, whose 8min 34.55sec clocking was a personal best by 12 seconds.
"And all the credit to Jacob. He must have really wanted it."
The men's and women's junior 3000m races comprised the first-ever national championship held on the Saxton track. The races followed the second annual Harold Nelson Classic and were held on a typically calm, cool Nelson evening with the nearby mountains as a backdrop to some superb running.
Auckland's Audrey Gregan shot to the front of the women's race, clicked off 77-second 400m splits the first three laps, and hammered through 1500m in 4min 48sec. Nelson's Jess Martin courageously went with the diminutive Aucklander and gamely stayed close for three laps before succumbing to the hot pace.
Gregan finished in 9min 49.05sec, seven seconds off the personal best she set in Wellington three weeks ago but continuing her impressive track season.
"I struggled with stress fractures last season and gave myself a break in cross country and only ran three times per week, just ticking over," Gregan said. "I got back to track training and quickly started to feel fast again."
Her fierce effort left Martin in no-man's land with a well-paced Olivia Ritchie chasing her. But Martin gathered herself and sprinted hard for the silver medal in 10min 3.89ses for a 23-second personal best and the W18 Tasman Centre and Athletics Nelson Club records. Ritchie finished third in 10min 12.65sec.
Priddy had the same strategy as Gregan in the men's race but it was not as effective. He blitzed the 1500m mark in 4min 20sec but still had Lowe and his Nelson team-mates Jeff Lautenslager and Thomas Andersen in tow.
Lowe ran the lap from the 2400m mark to the 2800m mark in 62sec and raised Priddy's doubts about winning.
"I could see the shadows of the two other Nelson guys behind me, and I knew I'd better pour it on, just to get a medal," he said.
Lautenslager said he felt dead-legged after the Lowe surge and settled for his first New Zealand medal. His bronze medal performance of 8min 41.52sec was a personal best by 29sec and led a rash of personal bests from his teammates.
Andersen, fourth in 8min 46.87sec, beat his previous best by 36sec. Fifth-placed Josh Barry took 18 seconds off his best with his 9min 9.87sec clocking. Hugo Lawrence cut about a minute off his old best with his sixth place 9min 18.12sec. Allister Meffan, seventh in 9min 22.68sec, and Sam Mackay- Wright, eighth in 9min 25.19sec, also were well under their personal records.
Athletics New Zealand president John McBrearty travelled from his home in Christchurch to Nelson and presented the medals to the top runners on the victory dais, and all the runners gathered for a group photo and some for a late-night dinner at a Stoke restaurant.
Fully recovered from the hard-fought race, Lowe and Priddy arranged to meet the next morning for an easy 16km training run at Dun Mountain.
A video of the men's and women's 3km races can be viewed on the coverage page of National Academy of Distance Running website: nzrunningacademy.co.nz. Results, P12.
- The Nelson Mail