Preview of the New Zealand Championships
It will be crunch time for a number of athletes vying for a place in the New Zealand team to the London Olympics this weekend at the New Zealand Track and Field championships at Trusts Stadium Waitakere.
Nikki Hamblin, who produced two outstanding performances winning silver in the 800m and 1500m at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, has recovered from an achilles injury that kept her out of competition for most of last year. She is back to near full training on a modified programme and has targeted these championships to prove her fitness for London.
Hamblin will be competing in the 1500m. If successful it will be a hat trick of titles, in fact it would be four years in a row, but in 2009 she was ineligible to take the title as she had yet to gain citizenship.
Competition in the 1500m will come from the rapidly improving Camille Buscomb, current national 3000m champion, Angela Smit, national junior 800m champion, Fiona Crombie, 2009 champion and Lydia O'Donnell.
The 800m will be an interesting battle between Buscomb, Smit, last year's runner up Anna Bramley and bronze winner last year Melanie Fayen. However there is a question mark over whether Bramley's will start following a slight injury.
Stuart Farquhar, silver medallist in Delhi will be competing for his 12th national javelin throw title. He first won in 2000, missed 2001 and has collected the title for the last ten years.
Elizabeth Lamb steps on to the high jump run up keen to not only improve the New Zealand record of 1.92m but crack the performance standard of 1.95m to gain the silver fern to London.
Beijing Olympic Games 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis has opted for the 5000m and will defend the title he won in Dunedin last year. Willis' American training partner William Leer has entered, along with national 10,000m champion Stephen Lett, Caden Shields and national junior 10,000m record holder Aaron Pulford.
Delhi Commonwealth Games decathlon silver medallist Brent Newdick will compete in seven of the ten events making up the decathlon. He will be defending his title in the 110m hurdles and the pole vault.
Andrea Miller, bronze medallist in the 100m hurdles in Delhi, will be seeking a qualifying time in the 100m hurdles. The four times national champion will face the defending title holder Fiona Morrison, 2009 champion Veronica Torr, Tracey Hale who was third last year and Rochelle Coster. Torr is also in the long jump along with fellow heptathlete and defending long jump champion Sarah Cowley.
Jacko Gill, who has qualified for London with the senior 7.26kg weight shot, will be competing in the junior men 20 shot put and discus throw. The 17 year old is concentrating on the lighter 6kg shot in his lead up to competing at the world junior championships in Barcelona in July. Gill would also like to erase David Storl, who holds the world's best for an 18 and 19 year old with the 6kg shot of 22.73m, from the record books.
Tom Walsh, in Gill's absence, should win the senior shot title. Walsh will be going for his third senior title in a row. Last year Walsh was out to 18.26m and he has since improved this season to 18.83m.
Carl Van der Speck will be all out to make it four years in a row in the 100m. However it won't be an easy task as Isaac Tatoa, 12 years his junior, and Joseph Millar have been snapping at Van der Speck's heels this season.
Alex Jordan will be defending his title in the 200m with Van der Speck, Tatoa, and Millar also doubling up in the 200m. Tama Toki has shown this season that he will also be in the hunt for a medal in the 200m. The 400m should produce a sensational finish with very little in times between defending champion Jordan, Frazer Wickes, Matthew Robinson, Toki and Daniel O'Shea.
Brad Mathas has his sights set on the 800m title, where he will be up against defending champion Michael Whitehead and junior champion Glen Ballam. William Leer has also entered the 800m and could well lead the field in.
The senior men's 1500m has drawn a classy field with anyone of five capable of winning. Hamish Carson will be looking for a three-peat of titles and has proven his ability on a number of occasions with his lethal finishing kick. Other sub-four minute milers Malcolm Hicks, Julian Matthews and Hayden McLaren should ensure an honest race throughout along with last season's junior champion Julian Oakley who is improving with each race.
James Mortimer will be defending his 400m hurdles title and should expect a tough race against Cameron French, Campbell Wu and 2010 champion Daniel Dyet.
Philip Jensen has returned for another crack at the senior hammer throw title. If he is successful it will be title number 18. Jensen first won in 1988 and has collected the title for the last 14 years in a row. Ryan Tinkle will be trying to deny Jensen the honour. Just 76cm cover their best throws this season, Tinkle leading the rankings with 57.48m to Jensen's 56.72m. Also capable of a big throw on the day is Damian Smuts who threw 54.23m in the Auckland championships last month. Similar to last year the triple jump will be a close contest between defending champion Todd Swanson and Scott Thomson.
Marshall Hall should make it four years in a row in the discus throw.
Valerie Adams has stayed on in Europe after winning the world indoor title, preparing for the London Olympic Games at her base in Switzerland. Adams would have been going for her twelfth straight shot put title. In her absence Siositina Hakeai looks likely to take over the mantle in the shot put and she should also take the discus throw title, in a close contest with defending champion Leesa Lealaisalanoa. Ana Po'uhila-Kisina of Tonga is entered in both and should win both competitions. Julia Ratcliffe is edging closer to the national hammer throw record of 65.91m and she should win the senior and W20 titles.
The women's triple jump has just three entries but it should be extremely competitive between defending champion Nneka Okpala, junior champion Greer Alsop and Charlotte Muschamp.
Kerry Charlesworth should win the senior and W20 pole vault events. She is defending both titles.
Monique Williams is back in action following injury and the three times champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m has entered the 100 and 200 metres. The women's 100m will be a close race between Williams, defending champion Andrea Koenen, 2010 champion Anna Smythe, Rochelle Coster and Larissa Dyke. Williams will be up against defending champion Koenen in the 200m.
Kristie Baillie should follow up her junior title last year with the senior title in the 400m. Also entered in the 400m is 800m exponent Angie Smit and senior runner up last year Rebecca Gibson.
Fiona Crombie should make it three years in a row and her fourth title in the 3000m steeplechase, while Brett Tingay should collect his second senior steeplechase title. Crombie is also entered in the 5000m where 2011 national 10,000m champion Danielle Ingram-Trevis should prevail ahead of Hannah Newbould, current 10,000m champion Sally Gibbs, Crombie and Sarah Biss.
Roseanne Robinson has the edge on the rest of the women race walkers and should take out the 3000m track and 20km road titles.
The championships are part of the Aurora Series in finding our brightest stars and also celebrate the 125th anniversary of Athletics New Zealand. They also form the Olympic Games trials and the finals for the Grand Prix series. The championships for senior, M20 and M17 grades start at 10.30am on Friday and run through the weekend finishing at 4.15pm on Sunday.