Athletics: Hockey star outpaces top sprinters

New Zealand women's hockey player Anita Punt had often wondered how competitive she would be in athletics and today found out the answer is very when lining up against some of this country's best sprinters.

Punt, who has played 103 tests for the Black Sticks, won both the 100m and 300m at the International Track Meet at Christ's College in Christchurch today. She beat the likes of Fiona Morrison and Kelsey Berryman who own a number of nationals titles between them.

Punt took out the 300m in 39.6 seconds from Auckland's Zoe Ballantyne with Morrison third and also won the 100m in a photo finish over Berryman and Morrison. A strong easterly made for slow times, with Punt winning the 100m in 12.61 seconds into a 2.9m headwind.

The 25-year-old is now expected to enter next month's national championships in Auckland, although she will have little time to focus on sprint training given she will soon travel to Argentina with the Black Sticks for a five-test series against the Olympic silver medallists.

"Hockey is still my main focus, definitely, and will always come first but I think it'll be fun just to see how far I can go with athletics," Punt said on the eve of today's event.

Nick Willis has gone all the way to an Olympic silver medal but the strong wind and grass track meant he failed to dip under the four-minute mile barrier tonight. He faded on the last lap but still won in a time of 4:08.16, four seconds ahead of Hugo Beamish with Alex Parlane (4:15.99) in third.

Lucy Van Dalen led for most of the women's Brian Taylor Memorial 3000m but was outsprinted in the final 80m by Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands, a triple medallist at NCAA level in the US college system.

Tom Walsh set a new personal best of 19.83m in the men's shot put and is closing on the 20.10m qualifying mark for this year's world championships. He added 50cm to his personal best and easily beat Damien Birkenhead of Australia, who recorded a best of 17.56m.


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