Athletics: Smiths inspired by great

Sian English
Sian English
A visit to the family home early this month by former Olympian Barry Magee inspired the Smith brothers to excel at athletics.

Jonah Smith (18) won the New Zealand junior men's 10,000m title in Timaru three weeks ago, and Magee presented him with his gold medal.

Andrew Smith (14) led home the 34-strong field in the prestigious Ness Cup handicap mile at the Caledonian Ground on Saturday.

The Ness Cup has been held annually since 1934. The first winner was New Zealand senior men's cross-country champion Bill Pullar (Anglican). John Walker's future coach, Arch Jelley (Mornington), won in 1946.

The Smiths, another brother Zinzan (16) and father Mike are members of the Grace Bible Church band. Mike and Zinzan play the guitar, Jonah sings and Andrew plays the drums.

Mike Smith spoke at Magee's church in Auckland a few years ago and when the 1960 Olympic marathon bronze medallist visited the Dunedin church, he was invited to the Smiths' home for lunch.

Magee told the Smith brothers what it was like training with Arthur Lydiard during the great era of New Zealand athletics.

Andrew Smith was running off a 45sec handicap and quickly moved through the field on Saturday.

After a lap, he was just 23sec behind the leaders and, after two laps, he had a 33sec lead on the field. Phil Napper (Ariki), off the same handicap, closed the gap to 21sec at the bell and the back-markers narrowed the margin in the final lap.

Andrew Smith completed the last 400m in 1min 20sec and won by 12sec from Neale McLanachan (Leith), who was off a handicap of 1min 25sec. Last year's winner, Ben Wardhaugh (Hill City-University), was third. Jonah Smith was sixth and Zinzan Smith 18th.

The fastest time was run by Alex Gorrie (University of Canterbury) in 4min 34.76sec. Joe Beamish (Hill City-University) ran 4min 43.62sec and Ben Anderson (Caversham) 4min 37.32sec.

The fastest woman was Sian English (Ariki) in 5min 17.10sec. Shauna Pali (Hill City-University) clocked 5min 22.95sec and Hanna English (Ariki) 5min 25.23sec.

New Zealand secondary schools 80m hurdles champion Christina Ashton (Taieri) won the women's 100m hurdles battle from Maddy Spence (Hill City-University), who won a bronze medal in the same event last month.

Ashton (15) had the better start and held a 50cm gap at halfway. She held on over the final hurdles to win in 15.72sec from a fast-finishing Spence, who clocked 15.81sec.

Two Ariki athletes, who had spent the past year overseas, returned home in style. Catherine O'Sullivan won the senior women's long jump with 4.36m, and Todd Johnston the men's 100m in 11.29sec.

New Zealand Olympic athletics team manager Raylene Bates (Taieri) was in record-breaking form in the masters women's aged 45 to 49 grade.

She broke Winifred Harding's 2005 Otago record in the hammer throw by 8.50m with her throw of 37.08m, and her shot put effort of 10.78m was 96cm better than Harding's old mark.