Challenging three days for 800 young athletes
More than 800 youngsters will gather at the South Island Colgate Games tomorrow to compete in a range of athletic events.
Sixty clubs are being represented by seven- to 14-year-olds, who will compete in their age-grade groups over three days this weekend at the Saxton Field athletics track.
Nelson's Jonas Kale, 14, says it is his last time competing in the games, and he is aiming for gold in the 100m and 200m sprints.
Last weekend he won the 100m sprint at the North Island Colgate Games in Tauranga.
The Nayland College student trains four times a week, and his goal is to compete at the Commonwealth or Olympic games.
He took up athletics when he was six and has been competing in the Colgate Games since he was nine.
Richmond athlete Megan Stack, 12, also hopes to win gold in the 100m sprint.
She is also competing in the 200m, the shot put and the high jump, and thinks she has a good chance of a placing.
Megan trains every second day and says that schedule has helped her to achieve her highest jump of 1.46m.
Chairman of the organising committee, Brian Cockeram, says this year's competitors have the chance to win a Colgate training grant that will help them further their career in athletics.
There are four grants available, and New Zealand selectors will be at the event to choose the winners.
Despite this, there is an emphasis on participation and fun, he says.
The games are all-inclusive and participants are welcome to compete in both the North Island and South Island games.
Mr Cockeram says that even though participation in the South Island event has decreased by about 200 athletes since last year, the total number of competitors in the North and South Island games will still be more than 2500.
The main reason for the decrease is that athletics clubs in Christchurch have been affected by the earthquakes in the past 18 months, he says.
At tomorrow's opening day, all clubs will participate in a march past, where they will leave their tents and line up before marching off. Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio will open the event before an athletics oath is read.
With more than 120 officials volunteering their time each day, the Colgate Games are the biggest track and field competitions in New Zealand.
Colgate has been a sponsor for more than 30 years.