Willis clinches sweet victory

26/02/2015 by Steve Knowles

Olympic Silver medallist Nick Willis defied the bookies odds to clinch a sweet 5000m victory over the Robertson twins to bring a rousing finale to the Auckland Track Challenge at a pulsating Douglas Track and Field at the Trusts Stadium.


The 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist, who was quoted as second favourite with the TAB, opened up a small gap from Zane Robertson with 700m to go and simple ran away from his Kiwi rival to stop the clock in 13:22.11 to lower Dick Quax’s NZ residents’ record of 13:24.0.

Zane finished 3.30 seconds further back – while his brother Jake, who recently tore ligaments in his knee, stopped running with a little over 500m to go.

Billed as the biggest New Zealand endurance battle for several generations it was easy to see why the race had attracted some much pre-race hype after Willis had set two New Zealand indoor mile records earlier this month and Zane has posted a stunning New Zealand half-marathon record with a 59:47 clocking in Japan.

The pacemakers Julian Matthews and Malcolm Hicks stuck reasonable well to their pre-event target of a 13:20 pace before Jake Robertson took the lead just after 3km with brother Zane, Nick Willis and the Aussie duo Brett Robinson and David McNeill also tucked in the lead pack.

With three laps remaining the three Kiwis opened up a gap on their rivals from across the Tasman Sea but with a little under two laps to go it was Willis who swept to the front.

At the bell, Willis held a five metre lead from Zane – with Jake now out of the race. The New Zealand half-marathon record holder briefly rallied but the 2014 Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist responded and amid a pulsating atmosphere he claimed the sweetest of race wins a little under two seconds shy of his PB for the distance.

“You could see the Robertson’s were working together and I kicked a lot further out than I wanted,” admits Willis, 31. “It made it a grind, but it was exciting and I was just thankful I crossed the line first.”

“It is fun to travel the world but there is nothing better than staying on your auntie’s couch eating some local grub and running in front of a really boisterous crowd. For an event that has been organised in only three months it was just a fantastic turn out. I really hope that is becomes an annual event in what it New Zealand.’

A disappointed Zane, who has struggled with a calf problem since setting his New Zealand half marathon record and was racing in New Zealand for the first time for eight years, said: “I found the pace quite easy but I haven’t worn spikes since last September and I’ve only been back training for five days. I don’t like to make excuses but I wasn’t at full fitness.

“The crowd were amazing. I had a lot of support. It was so awesome to see the kids come out here just like we used to watch Nick in the past. It was great to be back.”

 1500m: Melissa Duncan (Aust) 4:10.13 1, Nikki Hamblin 4:10.16 2, Zoe Buckman (Aust) 4:11.01 3.



100m: Kodi Harman 10.71 1, Michael Goldie 11.06 2, Aaron Booth 11.43 3.

400m: Cameron French 46.23 1, Tama Toki 46.80 2, Daniel Dyet 47.16 3.

800m: Andrew Wheating (USA) 1:48.40 1, Ryan Gregson (Aust) 1:49.21 2, Brad Mathas 1:49.40 3.

5000m: Nick Willis 13:22.11 (NZ Resident record) 1, Zane Robertson 13:25.41 2, Brett Robinson (Aust) 13:31.66 3.

Shot put: Ryan Whiting (USA) 21.27 (NZ Allcomers record) 1, Tom Walsh 20.24 2, Damien Birkinhead (Aust) 18.95 3.

Discus throw: Marshall Hall 56.07m 1, Alex Parkinson 45.44m 2.

Javelin throw: Stuart Farquhar 80.11 1, Hamish Peacock (Aust) 78.47 2, Ben Langton-Burnell 69.96 3.

Pole vault: Nick Southgate 5.10 1, Pascal Kethers 4.65 2, Thomas North 4.50 3.


100m: Portia Bing 12.09 1, Mariah Ririnui 12.33 2, Brooke Somerfield 12.39 3.

400m: Louise Jones 54.30 1, Amy Robinson 55.92 2, Jennie Hauke 56.06 3.

1500m: Melissa Duncan (Aust) 4:10.13 1, Nikki Hamblin 4:10.16 2, Zoe Buckman (Aust) 4:11.01 3.

Discus throw: Siositina Hakeai 57.99 1, Jade Lally (England) 57.14 2, Te Rina Keenan 55.21 3.
Pole vault: Alana Boyd (Aust) 4.35 1, Eliza McCartney 4.20 2, Imogen Ayris 3.40 3.


Athletics NZ