Nick Willis fuels Rackham's passion

PROZED POSSESSION: Promising Southland athlete Jordan Rackham with the pair of running shoes that Nick Willis signed for him last week.
PROZED POSSESSION: Promising Southland athlete Jordan Rackham with the pair of running shoes that Nick Willis signed for him last week.

Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis has handed plenty of praise the way of rising Southland running star Jordan Rackham, suggesting he will be the one to topple his New Zealand records.

The Southland middle-distance runner yet again put his name in lights within New Zealand athletics circles during the past week firstly by winning the prestigious junior men's mile event at the Cooks Classic in Whanganui.

Despite being only 17, Rackham then won the open B-grade title at the Capital Classic in Wellington, although his time would have placed him in the top eight of the open A-grade section.

During his time in the North Island he was also part of the Athletics New Zealand Young Olympian group of which he was appointed captain.

The group was put in place to help the development of New Zealand's best young athletes and also to put them in a tour-like environment to help prepare for when they might attend international meets.

Willis also spoke to the youngsters about his progress in the sport.

During both the Cooks Classic and Capital Classic Rackham and Willis talked about various aspects of running and they joked about a showdown soon between the young Southlander and New Zealand's best runner.

It was during one of those conversations where Willis provided the New Zealand secondary schools' 1500m champion with a big boost in confidence and has the Southland Boys' High School year 13 pupil fizzing in an attempt to improve his speed.

"I had a [long] conversation with him and when I went over to him at the Capital [Classic] his wife was there with their little child and he turned to her and said, 'this is the guy that's going to take all my New Zealand records'. That was pretty special," Rackham told The Southland Times yesterday.

"I didn't expect it, I don't want to think it's just going to happen for me because it won't, but it certainly makes me want to train more and go on to bigger things."

Rackham would like to follow in 30-year-old Willis' footsteps which includes heading to college in the United States after he finishes at Southland Boys' High School this year.

That was a topic the pair discussed.

"He gave me some good insight about going to the States and choosing good coaches and when to do it. I will look to go over there, they've just got more people to train and compete with," he said.

First though he has his sights on a strong year competing in New Zealand with a particular goal in mind. "I want to get the New Zealand secondary schools' (1500m) record at the end of the year, that's the main goal."

The Southland Times