23 Jan 2013

Willis and Van Dalen star at Cooks Classic

11:53 am on 23 January 2013

Nick Willis showed he's still in a league of his own among New Zealand's middle distance runners, with an emphatic victory in the main event at the Cooks Classic at the famous Cooks Gardens in Wanganui on Tuesday night.

Willis ran a controlled race to record three minutes and 58.09 seconds and produce the 59th sub-four minute mile at the track which saw Peter Snell run the first sub four minute mile 51 years ago when he set the world record.

Willis was lead around the track for the first two and a half laps by Wanganui's NZ 800 metres champion Brad Mathas, right on the required schedule.

After Mathas dropped out, Willis picked up the pace and finished with a scintillating 56 seconds last lap, to go comfortably under the magic barrier for the iconic distance.

Australian Matthew Coloe faded near the end finishing second in 4:07.43, while Aucklander Jono Jackson chased down tiring English athlete Sam Petty for third.

And the hometown hero, Lucy Van Dalen, didn't disappoint in the women's mile - her first race in New Zealand since her Olympic success in London last year.

She hit the lead from the gun and ran away from the field.

Van Dalen hit the finish in a smart four minutes 36.07 seconds, well ahead of a fast finishing Camille Buscomb from Hamilton at 4:43.86 and Cantabrian Rosa Flanagan 4:44.55.