The country's top young runners will be heading up hill and down dale at this weekend's New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championships.

About 1000 young athletes from 125 schools will be competing, and the city will also play host to their coaching contingents, managers, friends and family.

The annual cross country and inaugural relay championships will take place in Rotorua for the first time in its 43-year history.

The course is laid out over 6km of farmland at the Agrodome and Ngati Whakaue tribal lands north of Rotorua.

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Rotorua Lakes Council events co-ordinator Jason Cameron says it is more than just a sporting event.

"The Podium New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships is the most diverse gathering of secondary school talent on the national secondary schools events calendar with a great depth of young sporting, cultural and academic achievers participating in this team and individual focused event."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the event was recognised as one of the key nurturing events for future sporting achievers and she was delighted to be hosting competitors and supporters in the city.

"Our people are known for their manaakitanga - hospitality, and I trust that your weekend with us will be a memorable one."

Anyone can come along and support the event. The racing starts with the cross country events at 10.30am tomorrow and prizegiving wrapping up day one at the Energy Events Centre at 4pm. The weekend will continue with the relay champs on Sunday with the girls teams starting 9.30am.

A community charity relay has been organised to take place in between the girls and boys relay events.

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Teams of four, dressed up in fabulous costumes and armed with their specially made batons, will start the 4km course at 10.20am on Sunday. Proceeds from the event will go to Te Wairiki Purea Trust for its local youth programmes.

Registrations of $30 per team will be open on the day before to 10.20am for those keen to join the fun. With 100 people already entered and more than $4000 worth of spot prizes to give away it will be an event you don't want to miss.

Details:

* What: New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships

* Where: Agrodome, Western Rd, Ngongotaha

* When: Tomorrow 10am-2pm, Sunday 9.30am-12pm

* How much: Free to watch