Wanganui athlete William Smart is tipped as a runner going places fast.
In his last year at Wanganui Collegiate School, Smart has been catching the eye of astute judges throughout the country and his performances at recent meets are proving them right.
At the Hawke's Bay Classic a week or two ago, Smart posted a personal best 11.06 seconds for the 100m, and although it was a wind-assisted evening it was enough, combined with other top performances, to convince coach Alec McNab to suggest a step up to 400m at Tuesday night's Cooks Classic in Wanganui.
"William is a guy people are starting to notice and in recent times he has improved his personal best by up to two seconds for the 100m. I thought he was sharp enough to step up to the 400m at Cooks Gardens and he delivered a top run," McNab said yesterday.
Content to sit just behind the pace in second and third place early in the race on Tuesday, Smart looked a tad flat-footed as the leaders rounded the second-last bend. However, as they approached the final bend, Smart began his move and on straightening for the run home he produced a paralysing burst and punched to the lead. He was running away from a field of solid 400m athletes in the Eye on Victoria Men's 400m event.
Smart produced his first sub-50 second 400m, again proving his growing list of admirers right - he is an athlete to watch in the near future.
"That was a strong performance and showed me his forte will be over distances up to 400m at this stage of his career. I really think he is an athlete to watch," Mcnab said.
Meanwhile, on an evening ideal for competing, the Cooks Classic also proved a venue ideal for up-and-coming pole-vaulting star Eliza McCartney, from the North Shore in Auckland.
The 16-year-old was part of a strong Bays Cougars team invited to the Cooks Classic and she broke the under-17 national pole-vault record when clearing 4.01 metres at her third and final attempt.
During the build-up to the record-breaking attempt, McCartney showed she was in form by easily clearing the lower bars.
When it came to the big one, though, McCartney hardly cleared the ground, appearing to misjudge her first two run-ups. But after a soul-searching talk to herself and a quiet word from her coach, McCartney flew down the course, digging in her pole and clearing the bar with inches to spare.
The look on her face said it all.
"That buzzed me out. I was so stoked to break a national record," she said immediately after the event.
"I was actually concentrating on beating the 3.85m qualifying height for the world championships in the Ukraine in July. I was focused on that and felt that I was jumping well enough to have a go at the record."