The Lovelock Classic track and field meet to be held at Aorangi Park on Saturday has attracted the cream of New Zealand's top athletes.
The meet is the first of the Athletics New Zealand grand prix series throughout the country.
The feature event, the Lovelock Mile for men, has attracted a strong field of 13 with the winner to be presented with the Lovelock Mile Trophy for the first time.
The favourite for this event is Daniel Balchin (Canterbury), one of the bright young stars of middle distance running in New Zealand with a best time over 1500 metres of 3.48.36, but he will be challenged by another rising star in Ben Musson (Canterbury) with a best time of 3.57.88.
In the women's mile, a quality field of six athletes has entered with World Championship representative Angie Smit (Canterbury) the favourite, but she will be challenged by World Youth Championship representative Margot Gibson and Oceania champion Pip Trevella (both Canterbury).
In the open men's 800m, world junior international Brad Mathas (Wanganui-Manawatu) will be the one to watch with his trademark aggressive front running. He is ranked second in New Zealand (1.49.34) behind Olympian Nick Willis (1.49.04).
In the open women's and men's 100m, there will be some exciting sprinting.
In the women's race, New Zealand championship silver medallist Kelsy Berryman (Canterbury) is up against bronze medallist and World University representative Fiona Morrison (Canterbury), and in the men's, local and youth Olympic silver medallist Jacob Matson (Canterbury) comes in with a 10.78s 100m and will be challenged by the New Zealand M20 400m champion Robert Jopp (Otago) with a 10.89 personal best.
In the open women's 100m hurdles, New Zealand champion Morrison will be challenged by bronze medallist Berryman.
The New Zealand steeplechase high performance training squad is coinciding its camp in Timaru with the Lovelock Classic and has attracted World Youth championship representative Rosa Flanaghan (Canterbury), Caroline Melsop (Southland) and Anneke Grogan (Auckland) in the women's and in the men's, Jack Beaumont and Joe Beamish are two athletes to look out for.
In the 10,000m walk, five athletes selected for the New Zealand team to walk against Australia in Hobart in February will be competing. Kate Newitt, Courtney Ruske and Jonathon Lord (all Canterbury), Rozie Robinson (Otago) and Julie Edmonds (Auckland) will square off under the watchful eye of Commonwealth Games silver medallist Tony Sargison, who is the New Zealand high performance walks coach.
In the women's field events, Youth Olympics bronze medallist Lauren Bruce (Canterbury) is favoured to the women's hammer event, with Oceania bronze medallist Ruby Cochrane (Canterbury) favoured in the women's discus.
In the men's discus, Hayden Hall (Canterbury), one of the country's rising throwing stars and ranked second in New Zealand (51.11m), will be worth watching.
In the women's long jump, NZSS bronze medallist, Leanna Ryan (Canterbury) will be favoured, but will be challenged by Georgia Freeman and Rebecca Gillett (both Canterbury). In the women's triple jump, Freeman and Gillett will be both favoured to square off, and in the open women's high jump, Emma Sutherland (Hawke's Bay), third ranked New Zealand (1.80m) and World Universities representative, will be all class. In the men's long jump, local Tom Cooper, with a personal best 6.81m when fourth at the NZSS Championships, will be the one to beat.
PIECE OF LOVELOCK OAK USED
Timaru's highest profile athletics meeting has been given a boost with the introduction of a trophy to celebrate the Lovelock Mile.
The Lovelock Classic was initiated by the South Canterbury Amateur Athletics Club to create a memorial to 1936 Berlin Olympic 1500 metres gold medallist Jack Lovelock.
Retiring Timaru Boys High School Rector Kevin O'Sullivan will present the cup for the first time.
The base is made out of a branch from the Lovelock oak that stands within the Timaru Boys' High School grounds.
It was grown from a seedling that Adolf Hitler presented to Lovelock.
The Lovelock meeting was first held in 2007, with the first Lovelock Mile run in 2008. Since then, the meeting has been very popular, particularly by the children, as the SI Colgate Children's Games are always held two weeks later, and is a good warmup for that event.
- © Fairfax NZ News