Olympic stars Nick Willis and Lucy Van Dalen will headline the middle-distance events at the International Track Meet, New Zealand's premier track and field event, at Christ's College Upper Field in Christchurch next Saturday.
Willis will race a one-mile, an historic event on the grass track sure to evoke memories of the great races in New Zealand in the 1960s, including the world mile record set by Peter Snell in Wanganui in 1962. Following Willis' scintillating sub-4 performance in Wanganui this week, he has stated that if the conditions are right he will be seeking to repeat the feat on grass.
International competition will come from the Czech Republic's Petr Kaminski, and Australian teenage sensation Luke Mathews. The latter will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Australian record-holder Ryan Gregson, who broke through with a stunning victory and Australian junior record in the 3000m at the International Track Meet in 2009.
Van Dalen will compete in the Brian Taylor Memorial 3000m, with a strong challenge to come from Dutch star Susan Kuijken, a triple medallist at NCAA level in the US college system. Both have a 1500m personal best of 4min 05s. Behind these two, local interest will centre on Rebekah Greene of Otago who was seventh in the 3000m at last year's World Junior Championship, and multiple New Zealand Secondary Schools champion Rosa Flanagan of Canterbury.
The 800m races, which were a feature of last year's programme (commemorating the 50th anniversary of Peter Snell's world 800m record on grass at Lancaster Park in 1962), look like being another opportunity for the rising stars of New Zealand 800m running to showcase their talents.
In the women's race, Angie Smit of Canterbury will look to make it three in a row at the International Track Meet when she takes on Australian Olympian Zoe Buckman, a 1500m semifinalist in London last year. Smit had a stellar season in 2012 after winning the 800m and the Brian Taylor Memorial Development Award at the International Track Meet. She went on to win the New Zealand title in Auckland, and came within a whisker of qualifying for the Olympics, running 2min 0.67sec in Belgium in July.
Wanganui's Brad Mathas, the winner of both the 800m and the Nick Willis Development Award at the 2012 ITM, will defend his 800m title against competition from around New Zealand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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