By Gary Caffell
Former Athletics Carterton and St Matthews Collegiate old girl Ellen Schaef literally rubbed shoulders with the biggest name in world athletics while competing for New Zealand at the Coles Nitro Athletics track and field three-day meet in Melbourne earlier this month.
Schaef, who these days is based in Melbourne, had the opportunity to chat and have her photograph taken with the fastest sprinter on the planet, multiple Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
Bolt was part of an invitation team competing against five other squads representing Australia, New Zealand, England, China and Japan.
The format for the Nitro meets was far different from that usually seen at an athletics meeting.
It included a three-minute distance challenge, mixed distance and gender sprint relays, javelin with an accuracy bonus, races over the non-standard distances of 60m, 150m, 300m, elimination races and hurdle relays.
With a limitation on team size, some athletes competed in events they are less familiar with.
When points were tallied up at the end of the three meets, Bolt’s All Stars combination were at the top of the table — the 23-strong Kiwi contingent were last but that was not altogether surprising considering their side contained none of those who were part of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Schaef, for her part, did well in middle-distance competition including a fourth place in the one-mile elimination at the final meet.
She was a regular winner on the provincial scene when competing for Athletics Carterton and was awarded a Prime Minister’s Athlete Scholarship in 2009.
It was during that year that she placed second in the women’s 19yrs 400m at the national track and field champs in Wellington, having won that event the previous year.
Schaef has set two personal best times while competing in Australia this year, 2mins 5.30secs for the 800m and 4mins 24.55secs for the 1500m.