Willis still best of bunch with Cooks victory

19:30, Jan 22 2013

New Zealand's top middle distance runner Nick Willis showed he is still king of the Kiwi milers with an emphatic victory in the main event at the Cooks Classic at the famous Cooks Gardens in Whanganui last night.

Willis ran a controlled, smooth race to record three minutes 58.09 seconds to produce the 59th sub-four minute mile at the track which saw Peter Snell run the first, 51 years ago when he set the world record.

Willis was led around the track for the first 2.5 laps by Whanganui's New Zealand 800m champion Brad Mathas, right on the required schedule.

After Mathas dropped out, Willis picked up the pace and finished with a scintillating 56 seconds last lap to go comfortably under the magic barrier for the iconic distance.

Australian Matthew Coloe followed Willis for as long as he could, before drifting off the pace and finishing second in 4:07.43 while Jono Jackson chased down tiring English athlete Sam Petty for third in 4:14.17.

Hometown hero Lucy Van Dalen's first race in New Zealand since the London Olympics didn't disappoint the big local crowd in the women's mile.

She hit the lead from the gun and ran away from the field. Van Dalen hit the finish in a smart 4:36.07, well ahead of a fast finishing Camille Buscomb from Hamilton at 4:43.86 and Cantabrian Rosa Flanagan 4:44.55.

Pole vaulters featured at the meeting with Eliza McCartney of Auckland clearing a New Zealand under-17 record of 4.01m and her teammate Nick Southgate almost beating his own under-19 record of 5.10, coming up just 10cm short.

Te Rina Keenan confirmed her position as New Zealand's second best ever female discus thrower, setting a new best of 58.25m. Only former world champion Beatrice Faumuina has thrown further. World junior champs fourth placegetter Tina Hakeai was not far off her best, throwing 56.19.

National champion Joseph Millar from Tauranga was made to work hard in the 100m, having to come from behind to beat Isaac Tatoa, 10.55 seconds to 10.63. Andy Kruy finished third in 10.84 seconds.

Michael Cochrane and Cameron French had a classic battle in the 400m hurdles with French running a personal best of 51.23 seconds behind Cochrane's 51.06. Zoe Ballantyne won the women's race in a personal best 60.85s.

Canterbury athlete Fiona Morrison came up with two victories, first in the 100m hurdles in 13.80 seconds and then in the 100m sprint with 12.27. Kristie Baillie took a well-earned victory in the women's 400m in 54.95 ahead of surprise package Portia Bing in 55.46.

Ben Langton-Burnell was a comfortable winner in the men's javelin with 68.74 metres while Tori Peeters took out the women's event with 45.44.

The high jumps went to Liz Lamb at 1.77 metres on a countback from Emma Sutherland and Billy Crayford with 2.06 metres in a jump-off from Matt Nicholls.

The triple jump winners were Scott Thomson at 14.90 metres and Greer Alsop 11.62.

The next meeting in the Athletics New Zealand Classic series will be the Capital Classic in Wellington on Friday night.