Athletics NZ – @AthleticsNZ

The Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships take place in Hamilton 17 – 19 March. We pose eight key questions ahead of the 2017 edition of the championships.

How fast can red-hot sprinter Joseph Millar run?

New Zealand’s in-form sprint ace Joseph Millar will be an overwhelmingly favourite to claim his fourth 100m and 200m sprint double at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships.

The 24-year-old was the star Kiwi performer at last month’s compelling Nitro Series in Melbourne trimming 0.02 from his 100m PB of 10.30 and also coming within 0.16 of global icon Usain Bolt in the 150m.

Meanwhile, at the recent Auckland Championships the North Shore-based sprinter, who originally hails from Papamoa, served further notice of his outstanding current form by running wind-assisted times of 10.11 and 20.57 for the 200m.

Millar will be hoping for good conditions at Porritt Stadium as he seeks to threaten the World Championships performances standards of 10.12 for the 100m and 20.44 for the 200m.

Can anyone stop Brad Mathas from taking another 800m title?

Brad Mathas has long been established as New Zealand’s premier two-lap runner, but the Wanganui-raised and now Australian-based middle-distance runner has hinted 2017 could be a breakthrough year.

Last month at the ACT Championships in Canberra the 23-year-old set a PB of 1:46.97 and a massive recent 1500m PB of 3:46.66 also bodes well. Mathas will take all the beating as he seeks a sixth straight senior national 800m crown.

Can Tom Walsh maintain his record-breaking campaign?

It is hard to comprehend just how far Tom Walsh has come since he won the first of his seven successive national men’s shot put titles in 2010. That day at QEII Park in Christchurch the then 18-year-old hurled the 7.26kg ball 16.21m to claim his maiden senior shot crown and now some seven years later as an Olympic bronze medallist and World Indoor champion he is among the world’s elite.

Walsh is also in supreme form. At last month’s Auckland Track Challenge he bettered his New Zealand residents’ record with a mighty 21.80m and as he seeks to extend his sequence of national titles to eight on the bounce, it will be fascinating to see what kind of distance he can throw in Hamilton.

With his long-time rival Jacko Gill, the World and Olympic finalist, also in great form – he set a PB of 21.01m in Wellington in January – the men’s shot will once again be expected to provide fireworks.

Can Ben Langton-Burnell smash through the 80m barrier?

Ben Langton-Burnell has been in the form of his life this season to offer a very clear indication the 24-year-old has stepped up in class this year. Langton-Burnell posted an impressive PB of 80.38m on his home track at Hamilton last month and has also achieved three of the four longest throws of his career during the 2016-17 domestic campaign.

With this year’s nationals staged at his home track, the all-time New Zealand number three will be targeting another 80m+ effort.

Note, Stuart Farquhar, his long-time training partner and 16-time national champion who called time on his lengthy international career post the 2016 Rio Olympics, is also entered. The former Commonwealth Games silver medallist returned to competitive action earlier this month with a 70.01m effort at the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Championships.

Who will triumph in the women’s 800m showdown between Katherine Camp and Angie Petty?

One of the most intriguing match ups at Porritt Stadium will be the women’s 800m clash between Angie Petty and Katherine Camp. Petty, the World University Games gold medallist and Rio Olympian, has long dominated the domestic two-lap scene and will be chasing a sixth successive national title for the distance in Hamilton.

However, she faces a looming threat in the 25-year-old Katherine Camp. Petty defeated Camp in their first clash this year in Hastings. Nonetheless, Camp has struck back twice with successive victories over the 2014 Commonwealth finalist and 1:59.06 performer in Wellington and then at the Auckland Track Challenge.

This fourth domestic 800m clash between the pair this season – and most significant to date – could provide one of the championship highlights.

How high for Eliza McCartney?

Whenever Eliza McCartney hits the pole vault runway it is now major news and it will be no different in Hamilton as the Olympic bronze medallist seeks to once more make an impression.

The 20-year-old is clearly in outstanding form as evidenced by her 4.82m clearance – a PB by two centimetres – at the recent Auckland Track Challenge to set new Oceania, Commonwealth, New Zealand national, resident and allcomers records. A statistic made more impressive by the fact her new lifetime best came off a shortened 12-stride run up.

Twelve months ago at the 2016 of the New Zealand Track & Field Championships, McCartney made a huge breakthrough by vaulting a new lifetime best of 4.80m and it will be intriguing to see how she goes in the 2017 edition. She may also have half-an-eye on bettering Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefinidi’s world indoor leading mark of 4.85m.

Will it be Morrison or Coster?

One of the track highlights at the 2016 New Zealand Track & Field Championships was the titanic tussle in the women’s 100m hurdles between Christchurch’s Fiona Morrison and Auckland’s Rochelle Coster. In a quality final, just 0.02 separated the pair as Morrison’s late charge enabled her to pip Coster in a mouth-watering battle.

The pair might not yet be quite in the same shape as 12 months ago, but nonetheless the race for gold appears nicely poised. Morrison defeated Coster by a margin of 0.13 at the Porritt Classic last month (13.48 to 13.61), but Coster, the joint owner of the New Zealand record at 13.10, remains a fearsome competitor and will not go down without a fight.

Can Marshall Hall hurl the discus beyond 60m?

Currently in the best form of his career, Marshall Hall is chasing an eighth national men’s discus title. This season he has posted three of the four longest efforts including a 60.77m effort for a new lifetime best in Auckland last month. The 28-year-old Southlander may well still be some way short of making Olympic and World teams but the improved level of performance of the all-time New Zealand number four is still significant.

The Championships will be held at Hamilton’s Porritt Stadium starting at 9:30am on Friday 17 March and concluding at 3:30pm on Sunday 19 March.  Hamilton City Council is the Principal Partner for the championships.