Aucklanders Liam Ward and Katherine Badham are the top-ranked Kiwis in the junior races of the Oceania triathlon championships in Gisborne tomorrow.
The pair go into the Churchill Park-based two-day event as the reigning junior national champions, and both are looking forward to going head to head against the Aussies.
Liam is in his first semester at Auckland University of Technology.
He is doing a Bachelor of Business Studies part-time, which he balances with a full-on training schedule aimed at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Mexico later this year.
"I spent a lot of time looking at the university schedule so it did not interrupt training," he told The Herald yesterday.
"Triathlon training can be quite flexible and AUT really supports its athletes.
"I am feeling pretty good heading into tomorrow. My body is feeling fast and quite responsive. I am looking forward to it."
Katherine is also juggling study with sport in her last year at Takapuna Grammar School. She completed an NCEA biology internal early yesterday morning before flying to Gisborne.
"The last few weeks I have not been feeling that great but last week and this week I got my mojo back," she says.
While the pair are expected to do well, the pressure is not so much on them as others.
Both are members of Tri NZ National Talent Squad and by winning the national champs earlier this year, they have already secured their place on the New Zealand squad for the ITU world grand final - a festival of triathlon which includes elite and world age group championships.
"I feel like a lot of people here are going for world qualification spots, so it is nice to have that security already," says Katherine.
"But there are expectations on us we have got to live up to," said Liam. "There has been no rest for the talented duo since their January wins. They have competed in three events since then - Oceania Cup sprint series races in Takapuna and Kinloch, and the national championships. Both had top five or top 10 placings in all three.
Liam said they were keen "to show the Aussies what we are made of" tomorrow and it would be interesting to see how the Kiwis faired.
"The Australians have a lot of depth. There is definitely a lot of talent coming over from Australia."
While both are looking forward to racing, Katherine was a little apprehensive about the swim leg.
" The ocean swim is a bit choppier than usual races which is a bit of a worry as there are more variables and things that could go wrong."
Not so Liam.
"It is not often you get the surf swim and I love swimming in the surf."
Both have raced in Gisborne before - at the national secondary schools triathlon in 2014.
Having improved and developed substantially as athletes since then, they are excited to be back
"The course is looking good and it should be a really well-organised and enjoyable race," said Liam.
Katherine said the locals had been very supportive.
"Everyone I have talked to, even at the airport, are all really enthusiastic about it. It really does help lift you up.
"Good luck to everyone racing this weekend."
The junior races are at 9am for the boys and 9.02 for the girls.