Athletics: Vaulter qualifies for world event

Eliza McCartney (Takapuna Grammar) has a head for heights and proved it by winning the open girls pole vault on Saturday.

McCartney (15) jumped a record 3.85m at the New Zealand secondary schools athletics championships at the Caledonian Ground.

It was a personal best jump by 10cm and 5cm better than the old record. It qualified her for the world youth championships in the Ukraine next July.

''I've been after this for a long time. I'm so relieved. It's so exciting,'' McCartney said.

''I've never been to the Ukraine before. I'm so excited."

She beat Valerie Chan (Wellington Girls') 3.50m and Jessica Boyd (Christchurch Girls') 3.10m.

McCartney (15) has been pole vaulting for the last two years and this was her third national title. She won the W17 and W19 titles at the national club championships at Auckland in March.

McCartney had missed her first two vaults at 3.85m but made no mistake in her third attempt.

''I pushed hard at that one and did not look at the bar,'' she said.

''I plonked the pole down and just jumped. When I was falling down and saw the bar still sitting there, I was ecstatic. It was amazing."

She has done a lot of technical work over the winter months with her coach Jeremy McColl to gain more strength and improve her gymnastic skills.

''The second half of my jump needs a lot more work,'' she said.

''I have done a lot of back flips."

Nick Southgate (Rosmini College) retained the open boys pole vault with a jump of 5m. It added 10cm to his own record and equalled the New Zealand M18 record he already shares with Paul Gibbons.

Matt Baxter (New Plymouth Boys') gave the dominant performance in the middle distance races when he led from the start and won the senior boys 3000m in a record time of 8min 15.50sec.

It lowered the record that Philip Starr (Rongotai College) set in 1991 by three seconds.

The rest of the field were left behind as Baxter put his foot on the accelerator to win by 30 seconds from Finn Wilson (Auckland Grammar), who was timed at 8min 46.19sec.

Thomas Currie (Long Bay College) was just 3.29sec short of the oldest record in the book when he won the open boys 2km steeplechase in 5min 56.19sec.

The record is held by former New Zealand representative Geoff Shaw (Northcote College), who is president of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Association.

He ran it in 1975 and then had a fruitful career as a New Zealand senior representative.

''I thought it would go today,'' Shaw said before the race.

Currie (18) was second in the same event last year and has worked hard on his hurdling over the last 12 months.

He felt confident of winning the title when he took the lead in the second lap. Currie broke clear of the grip of Antoine Bonnet (Wanganui Collegiate) over the last two laps and finished with a personal best time by eight seconds.

Talia Horgan (Cambridge) just failed by 0.22sec to break a 1989 400m record held by former international Toni Hodgkinson (Golden Bay) when she won the senior girls 400m in 55.14sec.

Tom Smith (St Paul's, Hamilton) just edged out Henry Boyhan (Sacred Heart, Auckland) to win the senior boys 400m in 48.71sec. Boyhan was timed at 48.87sec.

Molly Florence (John Paul College) won the senior girls sprint double in the 100m (12.12sec) and 200m (24.24sec).

In another close contest, Paige Harwood (King's College) won the senior girls long jump with 5.67m with Greer Alsop (Southland Girls') second with 5.61m.