Organisers take Punt on pacy Black Stick

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2013
Anita Punt
Kerry Gallagher
ALL-STAR: Anita Punt caught the eye of many with her speed and skill at the London Olympics.

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You could say the organisers of next month's Christchurch's International Track Meet are taking a punt in the women's sprint event.

Black Sticks hockey player Anita Punt was confirmed yesterday as a wildcard entry for the meet on the grass track at Christ's College on February 2.

Punt, a Nelsonian now playing in Wellington, is renowned for her pace on the pitch. But Canterbury track fans will get to see how fast she is without a hockey stick in her hands.

International Track Meet organiser Paul Coughlan said Punt, who was part of the Black Sticks squad that finished fourth at the London Olympic Games, was "reputed in hockey circles to have a rare turn of pace".

"We've heard she's quicker than many of the Black Sticks men," he said.

Punt, a 25-year-old striker or midfielder, is "the speedster in the Black Sticks squad, with her times over 10m rating in the top eight of the men's squad", according to Hockey New Zealand's website. 

"She is a natural athlete in terms of her fast-twitch fibres and her overall fitness. Anita's game is naturally built around her blistering pace and she is extremely dangerous on the fast break."

She will face a baptism of fire in the Chariots of Fire confines of Christ's College where her sprint rivals will include London Olympics heptathlete Sarah Cowley, two quicksilver Cantabrians, hurdlers Fiona Morrison and Kelsey Berryman, the curent New Zealand junior 100m, 200m and 100m hurdles champion, and Otago's Larissa Dyke.

Morrison and Punt's paths have crossed before with Morrison part of the Canterbury Cats hockey team that won their first national women's title in a decade last year.

The men's sprint field will pit current New Zealand 100m and 200m champion Joseph Millar against national 400m champion Alex Jordan over the unconventional 300m distance. 

Millar lit up the Tauranga track last week, winning the 100m, 200m and 400m treble at the New Year's Day Twilight meeting. "That was one of the best single-day sprint performances ever seen in this country," Coughlan said.

Millar will also race in the Christchurch City Council men's 100m against Olympic decathlete Brent Newdick as part of the new quadrathlon competition being held at the meet. 

Competitors will square off in the 100m, long jump, shot put, and 800m, with points allocated as they are in decathlon or heptathlon events to determine the overall winner.

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Coughlan plans to announce more entrants soon in various events. He was "excited with the depth of talent that is coming together for the meet again. The atmosphere at Christ's College last year was electric and we're looking forward to repeating the experience."

He said the meet would again feature a mix of Olympians and rising stars.

The meet moved to Christ's College last year after its traditional venue, QE II Stadium, was destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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