Athletics: Middle distance resurgence for Caversham

Caversham runner Robert Brown wins the open men's 800m from Daniel Balchin at Memorial Park on Saturday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Caversham runner Robert Brown wins the open men's 800m from Daniel Balchin at Memorial Park on Saturday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The Caversham Club continued its resurgence in middle distance when it dominated the interclub track and field meeting in Mosgiel on Saturday.

The results the club has achieved on the track in recent weeks suggest it is set to challenge the supremacy enjoyed by Hill City, Leith and Ariki, since it was last to the forefront of local and national middle-distance in the early 1970s.

Caversham filled the first four places in the open men's 3000m and the first three in the open men's 800m.

Both races were compelling to watch.

The 3000m saw Caversham quartet of Daniel Balchin, Lyndon Brown, Tony Payne and Ben Anderson dominate from the outset.

The four spread the field with national junior 10,000m track champion Payne setting the early pace.

Payne applied extra pressure at the midway stage only to be challenged and overtaken by Balchin, who then displayed a classy turn of speed 600m out that Payne could not master.

Balchin powered to the finish in 8min 57.20sec, with Payne second in 9min 7.60sec and Brown third in 9min 13.70sec.

An hour later Balchin and Brown fronted up for the 800m along with Brown's younger brother, Robert.

Balchin appeared in control until Robert Brown displayed a telling turn of speed 300m out and held his pace on the run down the home straight to deny Balchin the double.

Robert Brown won in 2min 5sec, with Balchin (2min 6.50sec) and Lyndon Brown (2min 13.10sec).

The past year has marked a remarkable turn of fortune for Balchin (18), who began his athletic career with Civil Service as a 13-year-old after realising he was too small for rugby.

He became one of only a handful of Otago athletes to medal in national secondary school championships when he won bronze in the 3000m to go with his silver in the 2km steeplechase in December.

He is ranked No 1 in New Zealand in the 2km steeplechase for men 19-and-over and will contest the junior men's 19 grade in the national 3000m championships in Christchurch on March 13.

Then, in Wellington two weeks later, he will run in the 5000m and 3km steeplechase in the national track and field championships.

Adding to Saturday's track success for Caversham were: Geoff Anderson, second in the masters men's 3000m; Maria Sleeman, who won the masters women's 3000m in 12min 17.10sec; and Olivia Robb, who won the women's 17-19 grade of the 800m in 2min 30.20sec.

In field events, Claire Giles won both javelin and shot put competitions for masters women and Nicole Bradley the junior women's shot put.

The junior women's 3000m highlighted the emerging talent of Anna-Lisa Uttley (Ariki), who recorded a personal best of 10min 22.70sec to take the middle-distance spotlight away from open women's winner Kirsty Morris (Leith), who recorded 10min 25.20sec.

A member of the Jim Baird stable, Uttley (15), has impressed and improved with every race.

Other Baird athletes to feature in the programme, with Pacific Games champion Rebekah Greene (Hill City) winning the women's 15-16 800m in an impressive 2min 17.20sec, and Colgate race walk champion Caitlin O'Brien (Ariki) winning the women's under-14 800m in 2min 27.80sec.