This time next week, the St Cuthbert's College cross-country team of six will be winging their way to the Northern Hemisphere.
Destination: Budapest, Hungary, for the world schools cross-country championships on April 23.
Coach Marianne Duston, who has overseen a strong distance running programme at St Cuthbert's for many years - the likes of Audrey Gregan from the class of 2014 have gone on to bigger things overseas - says her charges have been running well in the track season. They qualified at last June's cross-country schools nationals in Dunedin, where St Cuthbert's depth from junior to senior ranks was evident. They choose from a large squad of 30.
The girls will run in the school's cross-country race on Monday before heading to England, where they will train at Hyde Park for a week. They fly into Hungary two days before the race. The 3.6km course, at Margaret Island, is apparently scenic and flat, much like some golf courses, quips Duston. The top four runners' times will count for the final team points tally.
"It's tough to tell, dependent on the quality of the opposition, but you've got countries like Australia and England which will typically be strong," Duston said of St Cuthbert's chances. "There will be a few unknowns, like Slovakia.
"They just have to give their very best in the event on the day, cope well with the jetlag and aim to be fit and healthy on the start line."
St Cuthbert's cross-country programme has been geared around peaking on April 23.
"You find with distance runners that they are naturally motivated and disciplined. You have to be training at least six times a week and so you need a good programme that prepares you for these key events."
The uniforms - they will compete in the Kiwi black with the silver fern - arrived last week to much delight among the athletes. The preparation has not gone 100 per cent smoothly, with one of the original selections failing a late fitness test yesterday after injury problems.
The team will be straight into the schools cross-country season on their return, so should be in prime condition for the May 19 Central-Eastern zone race and the June nationals in Rotorua. The full squad is: Emily Hacket Pain, Devon Lowyim, Emma Hamilton, Issie Robinson, Claire Rees and Megan Greensmith.
*Sacred Heart College will be New Zealand's representatives in the boys' teams division. They also depart on April 13 and have been heavily involved in the school and club track season. James Uhlenberg and Jono Ansley, in particular, have returned strong recent results and that pair, along with Jacob Holmes and Liam Miller, ran varying distances at the North Island schools meet last weekend. The other two team members - James Matthews and Sean Paget - have national schools triathlon and rowing commitments respectively this week, before they can refocus on Budapest.
As of yesterday, they still had a shortfall of $14,000 on their funding and were open to donations on their givealittle page.