Healthy Neal back in winning form
Tony Aikenhead stated the obvious not long after Izzy Neal soared past the finish line at Saturday’s Harold Nelson Classic.
‘‘She’s back,’’ Aikenhead said of his oft-injured star runner.
Neal’s time of 57.55 seconds in winning the women’s 400m was the second fastest registered by a women’s under-18 runner this season, confirming that she is healthy again after injuries that have kept her out of much of the last two seasons.
The time was only a few hundredths of a second off what she ran to finish second at last year’s New Zealand secondary schools athletics championships, and the conditions weren’t exactly ideal.
‘‘The winds were swirling around,’’ Neal said. ‘‘It was tough.’’
She was helped by her nearest competitor, Samantha Hardie, who challenged her around the final bend and finished in a near personal best 58.51sec.
Hardie and Neal were set to be 4x400m relay team-mates at the New Zealand athletics championships in March until Neal pulled out with a lower leg injury.
She recovered but twisted her ankle in her season buildup and then sat out the Athletics Nelson Twilight Series meet on November 1 with a groin injury. ‘‘She’s resilient,’’ Aikenhead said. ‘‘She came back tonight and hit the 300m mark right on target and looked very strong.’’
Neal led a field of star-studded athletes at the meet.
New Zealand record holder Lucy Sheat fended off Amanda Fitisemanu to win the 100m in 12.22sec and the 200m in 24.48sec.
In a high-powered men’s 100m, Alex Dawson edged Bailey Cotton and Oscar Field in 11.40sec. Cotton took out the 200m in 23.18sec.
Kalani Sheridan swept into the lead of the 3000m and fought those same swirling winds to record 8min 54sec.
Fletcher Pickworth held off fastclosing team-mates Nick Matthews and Angus Wemyss for second in a personal best 9min 10.45sec.
New Zealand junior women’s mountain running champion Sophie Smith won the women’s 3000m in 11min 5.93sec.
Camryn Smart, third with personal bests in both the 100m and 200m, won the women’s long jump with 4.82m.
Adam Stack won the M18 high jump (1.75m) and shot put (12.04m). Shannen Smith won the women’s triple jump with 10.12m, and Bryn Stevens the men’s with 10.18m.
Marlborough’s David Hansen won the men’s discus with 33.81m and men’s shot put with 11.66m and was a close second in the 400m to Jacob Brooks, who finished in 55.44sec.
Emily Bryan won the javelin with 30.25m. Her brother, Jacob, won the 800m in 2min 8.98sec. Lucy Harman won the women’s 800m in 2min30.14sec.
The meet took on a colourful atmosphere with music blaring at either side of the homestretch and an amateur film crew using a drone to video the event.
Full results can be found athletics.nelson.co.nz. at
Camryn Smart shows her winning form in the women’s long jump.