Waipā 21-year-old Leah Belfield has collected her second United States sprint title in as many months.
She added the NCAA Division 2 outdoor title to the indoor title she won in March, and in the process ran the fifth fastest time ever by a Kiwi of 23.30secs.
It has been an amazing 2022 for the Arohena raised sprint ace as her short outdoor season carries on where she left off in the indoor season.
After a steady start in mid-January Belfield lit up at her Conference finals winning the 60m and 200m, twice breaking the New Zealand indoor record for the 60m. She then progressed to the national indoor champs and again broke the 60m record on the way to finishing second, then capped the season off by winning the national indoor title in the 200m.
Her outdoor season has been peppered with fast times in both the 100m and 200m although many of those have had tail winds. She did manage to get a recognised 100m time when finishing second in her Conference final of 11.48, placing her 5th on the New Zealand all-time list.
At the NCAA National finals held at Allendale, Michigan on the weekend, she lowered her 100m time further to 11.45 in her heat, and then ran 24.40 in her 200m heat to make both finals ranked in the top three.
Finals Day was a busy few hours starting with the 4x100m relay where along with her West Texas A&M teammates they were narrowly beaten in to second place in a school record of 44.31 – losing to Minnesota State by just 0.02 seconds. Leah ran a strong second leg to get her team back in to contention after a slow first leg.
An hour later and it was the 100m final. Minnesota’s Jackson took the title whilst Leah looked like she would be second before her teammate, Canadian Deondra Green, pipped her on the line.
Just another hour later and it was the 200m final with the same three girls likely to be at the forefront. But this time it was Belfield who was to prevail. After a strong start there were five athletes in a line entering the straight and it was still tight with 30m to go but Belfield hit the afterburners and scooted clear in the final 30m.
Leah returns home this week before heading back to Texas in late August where she has two more years of eligibility on her Scholarship. She is studying Sports and Exercise Science and is a straight A student.
For her parents, Alan & Karina Belfield, and former coach Murray Green, it was an early 6am start on Sunday, and a nervous but rewarding few hours watching the live stream of the event.
“Just to get to the finals is huge, only the top 24 across the nation in each event get there, and then to make the final is a bonus – winning a title is out of this world,” Green said.
Two other Kiwis made the division 2 finals. Christopher Goodwin from Hamilton won the Long Jump in his final year, jumping 7.93m to move him to fourth on the all-time New Zealand list, whilst Alison Andrews-Paul from Wairarapa was second in the 800m.