Relay coach wants Games team to aim high

The Waikato-based coach of the newly selected New Zealand women's 4x400m Commonwealth Games relay team says they will not just be content at making an appearance in Glasgow next month.

He wants to see them try and qualify for the world track and field championships.

Chris Williams, of Tokoroa, started assembling a relay squad 13 months ago, and in April four of them smashed the New Zealand national and resident 4x400m records with a time of 3 mins 35.60 secs to easily qualify for the games.

Of those, Aucklanders Zoe Ballantyne, Brooke Cull and Louise Jones have been confirmed by selectors in the games team, with the fourth member, Waikato's Kristie Baillie named as a non-travelling reserve, along with another Waikato runner, Ellie McCleery.

Added to the group are Auckland sprinter Portia Bing and United States-based Te Awamutu sprinter Katherine Camp, while Williams' daughter Monique Dell (nee Williams) will be confirmed once she proves her fitness and form with a 54-secs 400m in Europe by the end of this month to bring the squad up to six.

Williams, who said he was pleased that he was not faced with the difficult task of selecting the final squad, has no doubt Dell will be confirmed in the team and he is excited about the potential of the group.

"It's going to be a good platform for New Zealand female 400-metre runners now they're back at the Commonwealth Games.

"We haven't had this opportunity for many years and now the opportunity is there it's up to the six going over to make sure they lay down a good platform for future 400m runners coming through."

He looked at the world championship qualifying time last year of 3:33 and felt it was well within the grasp of his top four at Glasgow, while he had a good mix of experienced and youthful quality 400m runners in the squad.

"When we qualified [for Glasgow] we qualified by ourselves with no competition and now with competition, another two months' training on top of that - and really focused training now - and Monique coming in it is going to be a good injection and I can see their time dropping a good couple or three seconds.

"We can't just go over there and say 'oh well, we've made the Commonwealth Games team'. It's got to be 'that's the stepping stone so where is it going to go after this'.

"And how can we maximise the opportunity of being at the Commonwealth Games to make sure there is a platform set for the future."

Dell, who is married to the England Commonwealth Games team chef de mission Graeme Dell, is training with Linford Christie's British sprint squad and will race later this month in a bid to make the 54 secs time. Her personal best is 51 secs.

The team will be based on Australia's Gold Coast from June 25-30, competing in individual events there on June 29, and then in Cardiff from July 10-22 before arriving in the Glasgow games village on July 22.

Also added to the New Zealand Commonwealth Games athletics team yesterday were 1500m runners Julian Matthews (Nelson) and Nikki Hamblin (Cambridge) as well as Auckland-based Wanganui 5000m runner Lucy van Dalen.

Waikato Times