Athletics: Morrison back to best after injury

Canterbury hurdler Fiona Morrison leads Otago’s Christine Ashton to the final line in the senior...
Canterbury hurdler Fiona Morrison leads Otago’s Christine Ashton to the final line in the senior women’s hurdles at the South Island track and field championships at the Caledonian Ground on Saturday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Fiona Morrison (Canterbury) made a triumphant return with victory in the 100m hurdles and 60m sprint at the South Island track and field championships at the Caledonian Ground on Saturday.

Morrison (27) was returning to serious competition after an ankle injury and subsequent surgery kept her from defending the senior women's 100m hurdles title at the national championships earlier this year.

A victory that would have given her the crown for a third consecutive year and a fourth in total.

It was somewhat of a gold rush for Morrison at the 2014 national championships when she also won the senior women's 100m title and finished second in the 200m.

‘‘Challenging'' was how Morrison described victory in her first hurdles race back since her injury.

She was satisfied with a winning time of 14.47sec and holding out fellow Cantabrian Kelsey Berryman, who finished hot on her heels for second in 14.71sec on Saturday, and the win served as a confidence boost for Morrison, whose goal for the season is to ‘‘keep chipping away at the times'', as she knows how difficult it will be to regain the national title.

‘‘To come back and be national champion again would be quite nice,'' she said.

But to achieve this goal Morrison is well aware of the task that will confront her when she returns to the Caledonian Ground in early March for the national championships, as in the field she is likely to confront four other women, all with sub-14sec times.

Morrison's best of 13.42sec is second only to Auckland's Rochelle Coster, who has clocked 13.41sec, while fellow Aucklanders Portia Bing (13.59sec) and Veronica Torr (13.68sec) are likely other contenders. Berryman, who has clocked 13.64sec, is another.

Speed out of the blocks set Berryman up for victory in the senior women's 100m sprint on Saturday, when she clocked 12.31sec into a nagging wind, leaving Morrison to battle out the minor places with Otago's Christina Ashton. Ashton got the better of Morrison in the final metres to clock 12.81sec, with Morrison third in 12.85sec.

But the roles were reversed in a blanket finish in the 60m senior women's sprint with Morrison winning in 8.08sec, from Leanne Ryan (Waikato) in 8.08sec and Ashton third, also in 8.08sec, as the trio were separated down to the thousandth of a second.

Morrison and Ashton also featured for the Canterbury and Otago relay teams respectively. Morrison got Canterbury out to a stunning start to the 4x200m relay, but a turn of speed from Ashton on the third leg had the teams changing together.

Maddy Spence took the lead for Otago as she turned into home straight, then doggedly held out the Canterbury challenge to complete the journey in 1min 46.48sec. Canterbury was second in 1min 47.28sec.

Earlier in the meeting, Spence won the 400m hurdles in 1min 4.09sec and 400m sprint in 59.94sec.

A bronze medal in decathlon at last season's national championships has Canterbury's Jackson Henry seeking to compete in all events in preparation for when the championships return to Dunedin next March.

Strength over the final 50m enabled Henry to pull away from the field to win the 110m senior men's hurdles in 14.98sec.

Henry began the meeting finishing second in the senior men's pole vault, clearing 4m, with fellow Cantabrian Alex Mander clearing 4.30m to win the competition.

Both Henry and Mander played a big role as Canterbury dominated the 4x200m relay. Henry got the team out to an impressive 30m lead with Tom Gill, Mander and Jarvis Hansen complementing this to clock a winning time of 1min 33.56sec.

Other highlights of the meeting:

• Atipa Mabonga (Southland) won the women's long jump with a personal-best of 5.88m, and then fell just short of her personal-best to win the women's triple jump in 12.22m.
• Sammy Burke led from the start of the race to win the junior women's 1500m in a personal-best time of 4min 50.23.
• Jack Beaumont (Southland) won the senior men's 1500m in demanding conditions in 4min 9.97sec, following an all-the-way battle with Sean Eustace (Canterbury), who finished second in 4min 10.92sec. Eustace had earlier in the day held out a strong challenge from Jordan Rackham (Southland) to win the senior men's 3000m in 8min 55.47sec. Rackham, in his last meeting before taking up a scholarship at the University of Nebraska, clocked 8min 56.38sec in second.
• Hugh McLeod-Jones (Otago) dominated the junior men's throwing circles, winning the hammer throw with 48.47m, shot put with 13.38m and discus with 39.60m.
• Andrew Whyte (Otago) put daylight second in the early stages to dominate the senior men's 400m crossing in 47.79sec.

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