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Athletics: Eliza McCartney soars back into the winner’s circle at the Potts Classic

Eliza McCartney enjoyed a successful meeting. Photo / Paul Taylor

Eliza McCartney is back in the winner’s circle.

McCartney took out the pole vault title at the Potts Classic athletics meet in Hastings on Saturday, despite struggling with illness and still attempting to build back to her previous heights.

Competing off a shortened eight-stride run-up, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist claimed a confidence-boosting victory with a clearance of 4.36m.

The 26-year-old surprised herself to defeat a below-par Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Imogen Ayris (4.21m) and national champion Olivia McTaggart (who no-heightened at 4.36m), with a 15cm improvement on the height she cleared when third behind both Ayris and McTaggart at the Pre-Potts meet on Wednesday.

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The two competitions last week were McCartney’s first since June 2021, due to a lengthy absence with a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury.

She required two attempts to clear at her opening height of 4.06m and wriggled over at 4.21m at the third time of asking. The 2018 Commonwealth silver medallist then revealed her battling qualities by sailing clear at 4.36m with her third attempt.

“I woke up sick, which was unfortunate, so I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent,” McCartney said. “It was a tough competition and that’s why I pulled the pin after clearing 4.36m but I’m really pleased with how it went.

“The focus is to jump consistently in competition again, so I competed off a shorter run-up because it takes a variable out and I can focus on jumping.

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“It feels like I’ve spent the whole of 2021 and 2022 trying to get myself out there again.”

The run-up is less than half her longest, the 18 steps of her New Zealand all-comers (best set in New Zealand) record of 4.85 meters, set in Hastings in January 2019, six months after her national record of 4.94m jumped in Jockgrim, Germany.

“[Victory] is not something I was expecting, but I don’t usually ever expect or focus on winning, especially here in New Zealand when I train with these girls every week. We all have our own goals, but the win was a nice cherry on top.”

McCartney is targeting a world championships qualifying vault this season and a place at the championships in Budapest in August.

– With Hawke’s Bay Today

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