The iron man of New Zealand running, Phil Costley, looks set to chalk up his fifth national mountain running title on Mt Campbell near Motueka tomorrow.
The 44-year-old maths teacher at Nelson College won the title the last time the race was held at Mt Campbell in 2012 and his previous titles have been in 2000 at Blenheim, 2001 at Te Aroha and 2005 in Wellington.
Another title will make it 32 across all events for Costley and would take him equal with race walker Craig Barrett and closer to Valerie Young, who heads the list of most New Zealand titles with 37.
Jono Jackson of Auckland will provide the strongest challenge to Costley over the uphill 14.2km climb of 1290m. Jackson (23) has just completed a successful track season and recently won the Auckland round the bays run for the third year in a row. Stephen Day of Wellington, who was fourth in 2012, has opted for the senior race instead of the masters' grade which he won last year.
Sally Gibbs at 50 should dominate the senior women's 7.2km climb of 830m. Gibbs from Tauranga was third last year and finished a creditable 33rd at the 2012 world mountain running championships in Italy. Gibbs competed at the 2012 Mt Campbell championships winning the 45-49 masters grade in 49:51 for the 7.2km, a time that would have placed her second in the senior women's race.
Nicole Mitchell, 29 years her junior, will be chasing Gibbs hard as she did last year in finishing fourth. Mitchell from Wellington, the 2012 junior women's champion, competed with distinction at the 2011 world championships in Albania where she was 18th in the junior women's event.
Emily Solsberg of Wellington Scottish should make the podium for a championship medal.
The women's field has an added international flavour with Sarah Douglas (US) and Harriet Smith from Australia, who won the Mt Glorious race in Queensland in February.
Thomas Andersen of Nelson, who was second last year, and Tim Robertson of Hutt Valley who was third should again battle it out for the junior men's title. Andersen was second in junior men's 5000m two weeks ago and third in the mountain championship in 2012.
The Athletics Nelson pair of Kirsten Walker and Sami Jordan will go head to head for the junior women's title.
Nelson runners Paula Canning and Colette Read should lead in the masters women. Michael Wray of Wellington in the 45-49 age group should be up with the pace in the masters men along with Nelson's Cliff Bowman and former world championship representative Patrick Meffan. On the Mt Campbell course in 2008, Canning won the masters women and Meffan the masters men.