Athletics: Willis aims to qualify for worlds at home

By Dana Johannsen

Nick Willis will have a couple of good pacemakers. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nick Willis will have a couple of good pacemakers. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Nick Willis is aiming to meet the 1500m qualifying standard for this year's world championships in Moscow on home soil tomorrow night with a one-off race in Auckland.

The Olympic silver medallist, who has raced in Christchurch, Wellington, Wanganui and Palmerston North over the past couple of months, will end his New Zealand summer with a one-off race at the Millennium track tomorrow night.

The race, which is open to the public, will double as a final tune-up for next week's Sydney Grand Prix, where Willis has his sights set on the world championship mark. But the Olympic silver medallist will be even happier if he can knock off the time in Auckland.

"Athletes like to get these things out of the way early in case of illness or injury," said race organiser Chris Pilone.

With a personal best and New Zealand record of 3:30.35, set in Monaco last year, Willis knows the 3:35.00 qualifying time is well within his capabilities, but he will rely on the local field to push him through.

Pilone has lined up two pacemakers but he said Willis was likely to have to run solo for a large part of the race if he was to eclipse the qualifying time on home soil.

"Potentially he is going for something reasonably fast," said Pilone. "We've organised a couple of pretty good pacemakers for him, but they will probably only get him through to 1000m at the required pace, so he'll have to do a lot of the donkey work himself."

Willis had hoped to run in the relaunched Queen St mile on April 1, but could not squeeze the event into his busy training and competition schedule leading into Moscow.

But he is still keen to support John Walker's Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation before he heads back to the United States, and will donate some of the sponsorship for the event to the foundation.

Nick Willis 1500m

Millennium Institute
Tomorrow, 8pm

- NZ Herald

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