Athletics: Gibbs heads NZ's world mountain running quest

World masters champion Sally Gibbs will be one of the oldest competitors in Sunday's world mountain running championships in Italy but has high hopes of finishing much higher in the field of 99 than her age.

The 49-year-old from Katikati has had a good winter, winning the Huntly half marathon in 1h 17m 46s, setting a New Zealand masters marathon record of 2h 41m 15s on the Gold Coast in July, placing fifth in the national senior women's cross country championship and winning in the Waikato Bay of Plenty 10km road championships. Last Sunday she also won a race in the Dolomites in northern Italy.

Gibbs will be joined on the starting line in the women's championship in Ponte di Legno by fellow Kiwis Helen Rountree (Hamilton) and Anna Frost (Dunedin) who is now based in Wales.

Rountree won the Mt Maunganui mountain race last December and was third in the New Zealand mountain running championship in April. Frost is the 2009 Commonwealth uphill champion and the 2010 New Zealand champion.

Italy's Valentina Belotti, who won in 2009, and 2010 champion Andrea Mayr of Austria are among the favourites in the women's race.

Last year's national champion Dougan Butler (Inglewood) and 2009 champion Glenn Hughes (Wellington) will compete in the senior men's race, while national junior champion Ryan McAlister of Porirua is the country's sole representative in the junior men's event.

Hughes was 74th at the 2008 world championships.

New Zealand has a fine record at the world mountain running championships with Jonathan Wyatt, who is the team manager, a six-time world champion. Melissa Moon also won the women's title twice and Kate McIlroy won in 2005 when the championships were held in Wellington.

- APNZ

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