Fresh from slashing 10 seconds off the men's 19-years Taranaki record, middle distance runner Matt Baxter has his sights on setting a new 3000m national mark.
The 18-year-old will be the hottest of favourites to win the New Zealand secondary schools' 3000m title in Dunedin next week, the last time he will line up at that level.
After a stellar season that has seen him collect national road and cross-country titles, as well as a fourth placing at the Australian under-20 cross-country championships, few will bet against him achieving his goal.
The newly-crowned Taranaki junior sportsman of the year, Baxter might be slightly distracted by his last exam on business and tourism next week, but he was still confident of a top showing down south.
"Going by the time I did at the weekend (8 minutes 19.91 seconds), I'm now only 1 seconds off the New Zealand secondary schools' record and that hasn't been broken for 21 years," he said.
"So that's my big goal. I remember watching a guy when I was in Year 10 go for the record and he was a second off, so that's one thing I don't want to be. I know I'll probably be out on my own but I won't just be going down there for the title, I'll be working as hard as I can for that record."
Without an obvious pace-maker in the field, Baxter's biggest concern was likely to be timing his sprint and avoiding going too early.
The New Plymouth Boys' High School student was confident he could judge his run well enough to get under the mark.
"I can go by the crowd, as well, because they soon let you know if you are on track for a record," he said. "It will be a case of soaking in that crowd support and getting the adrenaline going."
Baxter was definitely feeling markedly different physically to where he was 12 months ago when he was struck down with glandular fever and missed the nationals.
"I still went, I was the Boys' High manager and supported the guys, so I've got a bit of unfinished business, especially with it being my last year as well," he said.
"Having won the cross-country title, I really want to do the double, that would be pretty special."
Baxter will end the year with a 5000m men's track race on December 19. He also has several meets before the national track and field championships in March.
Next year he hopes to start a criminology degree at Auckland University, despite having several offers to take up an athletics scholarship in the United States.
"The first couple were a bit average and easy to turn down but the others were a bit harder," he said. "I'm enjoying it here, being close to home, and I still have the option of doing a second or third year over there. I'm keeping my options open."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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