Athletics: Trans-Tasman flavour to Auckland Track Challenge

Valerie Adams of New Zealand competes in the Womens Shot Put. Photo / Getty Images
Valerie Adams of New Zealand competes in the Womens Shot Put. Photo / Getty Images

Douglas Track and Field in Waitakere will host the Auckland Track Challenge on Thursday February 25. The event once again brings international athletics to West Auckland following last year's very successful event.

The athletics extravaganza, featuring some of New Zealand's elite athletes, will take place at the base of West Auckland athletics, The Trusts Arena.

The Auckland Track Challenge gets under way at 6.30pm, following on from the Waitakere Track Challenge Series and Athletics New Zealand's Get Set Go fundamental skills programme event featuring hundreds of West Auckland primary school children earlier in the afternoon.

The Track Challenge will see around 150 invited athletes from around New Zealand, including over 20 New Zealand representatives, with five medallists from major international championships and a big group of Australia's top athletes in action.

With the Rio Olympics Games looming large on the horizon, the Track Challenge is of special significance for those leading athletes looking to qualify or cement their preparation plans.

Already, 10 Kiwi athletes have achieved the standards for nomination to the New Zealand team at the Olympics and meetings like the Auckland Track Challenge offer fantastic opportunities for more athletes to make the team.

In many events the meeting will feel like a "Test Match" against Australia with hand-picked athletes invited to give the top New Zealanders some excellent competition. A tally will be kept of the "wins" by each country to provide bragging rights and keep the athletes on their toes.

New Zealand's most decorated athlete, Valerie Adams, two times Olympic shot put gold medallist, multiple World Champion and many time NZ Sportsperson of the year will be competing.

New Zealand's other two international shot put stars Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill, along with Australia's top shot putters will also be in action.

New Zealand World junior pole vault record holder and rising star Eliza McCartney will be competing against double Commonwealth champion Alana Boyd and Jamie Scroop from Australia.

On the track, World Universities 800m champion Angie Petty from Christchurch will be taking on two of Australia's best in Brittany McGowan and Selma Kajan over 800m.

Kiwi discus divas Te Rina Keenan and Siositina Hakeai, both from Auckland come up against a big challenge in Australia's former world champion Dani Samuels and England's Commonwealth Games medallist Jade Lally.

Meanwhile in the javelin, Commonwealth Games medallist and 15 times NZ champion Stuart Farquhar from Auckland will be trying to fend off his training partner and fast improving young gun Ben Langton-Burnell and Australian Commonwealth Games athlete Josh Robinson.

"The Track Challenge is a very important part of our programme", said Athletics New Zealand Chief Executive Linda Hamersley. "It provides an opportunity to profile some of our top athletes and presents good levels of competition in selected events, which might assist more athletes to get to Rio 2016."

The festival once again has the generous support of several important partners including Waitakere business icon Douglas Pharmaceuticals, Auckland international sporting leader Les Mills gyms and leading West Auckland business, The Trusts.

Simon Wickham, CEO of the Trusts, was excited by the opportunity to support bringing an international event to West Auckland "The Trusts are delighted to be a major sponsor of the Douglas Waitakere Athletics Festival. We're committed to Giving Back to the West Auckland community through events such as this where kids get to be active and have fun as well as see some of their sporting heroes up close here in their own backyard. It's also a way of us supporting a plethora of sports and competitors alike, keeping high quality events like this local to assist with them achieving what they need to do to work towards or stay at the top of their game. It's a fantastic event for family to come and watch and be a part of too."

- NZ Herald

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