Five class acts went to war in the junior girls' race at the East Coast secondary schools crosscountry champs in Gisborne last Wednesday.
Brianna Lee (Napier Girls), Briana Irving (Gisborne Girls), Ruby Brett (Karamu High), Nina Boesch (Napier Girls) and Alia Wentz (Woodford House) could all lay claim to being of national class as distance runners.
Lee won the national schools 800m title last year with Boesch fourth in the same final; Irving chalked up two silvers on the track at last year's North Islands and the national road race bronze; Wentz placed eighth in the national road race while Brett made the 800m final at this year's North Islands and made top 10 in the national road race.
They're so used to meeting one another they probably exchange Christmas cards but all that was forgotten on the start line.
In Gisborne, it was Lee who came out on top from hometown girl Irving, reversing the finishing order from the crosscountry relays at Anderson Park in May where Irving took the cup for fastest time.
This time Lee ran 11:18 to win the 3km race held at Gisborne Showgrounds. She was followed in by Irving (11:27). Brett (11:41), Boesch 11:45) and Wentz (11:57).
Much-improved Mitchell Snell (Lindisfarne College) was too strong in the junior boys' race for Napier Boys pair Oliver Marshall and Max Taylor.
These three will form the nucleus of a very strong five-man East Coast junior team at this Sunday's national crosscountry relays.
The relays will follow the individual national schools champs on the Saturday, both to be run on what was the Ascot Golf Course beside the QEII Stadium before the Christchurch earthquakes dealt to both.
Snell ran the 4km in 13:41, winning by 18s from Marshall, with Taylor a further 4s back.
And Year 9 runner Sam Elliott of Napier Boys won by a commanding 27s in his race. Elliott, a Hereworth School product, is much improved this year.
The senior boys' 6km race fell to Bradley Christison (Napier Boys) who ran in the leading bunch for the first two laps before forging away to win decisively from Gisborne Boys' Josiah Ney and Lindisfarne pair Ronan Lee and Will Little, who photo-finished for third and were given the same time.
Despite having had a quiet year to date, Woodford House's Ginny Gibbs ran away from the well-performed Emily Dunn (Napier Girls) in the 4km race for senior girls.
The East Coast regional relay teams will be selected from those travelling to Christchurch representing their schools at next weekend's national crosscountry.