Van Dalen leading Classic early entries

By Jared Smith

One Olympian confirmed, another more than a likely starter if a quality field is attracted and a new naming sponsor all sewn up.

Balance Chartered Accountants Cooks Classic 2013 is the name and for the next month pulling in as many top stars as possible is the game for Alec McNab as the evening of January 22, 2013, approaches.

Wanganui's Olympian Lucy van Dalen is committed to head the field in the Women's International Mile while 2008 silver medallist Nick Willis is all but locked in for the men's race.

McNab, as president of Athletics New Zealand and Athletics Wanganui, said discussions with Willis to head the race have been all about prize money.

But it's not for himself the total race pool is unlikely to exceed the $4000 of this past January Willis wants to give the whole field some incentive to show up.

"Nick wanted to go deep [into placings getting money] that way it attracted his training group," said McNab. "He's a supporter of New Zealand events, more than some guys."

McNab confirmed there will be three touring groups making Cooks Gardens a stop on their schedule, including Nelson distance runners, an Auckland troop and the members of the Young Olympians tour.

"That gives you a core of 70 athletes that are top level."

To this you can add local prospects such as World Junior Track and Field representative Brad Mathas and runner William Smart.

Leading national javelin thrower Ben Langton Burnell from Palmerston North, who is coached by Wanganui Collegiate's Richard Drabczynski, is also confirmed.

As well as the established names, the average kid off the street in Wanganui will be given a chance to compete under the lights.

After around a decade, the classic is bringing back the Fastest Kid on the Block competition.

McNab and Athletics Wanganui organisers will go out to four different spots around town in the week leading up to the meeting for some quick sprint races.

Kids living down the road from the parks in the likes of Castlecliff and Aramoho can roll on up and have a crack. The top two from each of the four venues will then race in the finals at Cooks Gardens.

The final lineup is nearly confirmed as organisers will decide closer to the time whether the triple or high jump features on the main bill, with the other being held during the pre-classic events starting that afternoon.

"It will probably be the triple jump as we've got two of New Zealand's best and two local boys who are very good," said McNabb.

The classic is the second of three summer series meets, starting at Napier on January 20, then Cooks Gardens and finishing in Wellington on January 25.

The business side of sport was transacted at the Balance Chartered Accountants office yesterday afternoon as the company formally signed on as naming sponsor for 2013.

CEO John Taylor said it was an exciting opportunity to be involved with a premier New Zealand athletics meeting, while fellow director Glenn Brown said it followed on from their support of local tennis and netball.



Pre-Classic Events

5.30pm: High Jump or Triple Jump; 5.40pm: Hurdle Event TBC; 5.50pm: Pole Vault and sponsors function; 6pm: Distance Event TBA; 6.15pm: Club 800m; 6.40pm: Women's Discus; 7.30pm: Official Welcome.

Cooks Classic

7.30pm: Women's Triple or High Jump, Men's Triple or High Jump; 7.35pm: Women's 100m; 7.40pm: Men's 100m; 7.50pm: Men's Shot put; 7.55pm: Fastest Kid on the Block finals; 8.10pm: Junior Men's Mile; 8.20pm: Women's 400m; 8.25pm: Men's 400m; 8.35pm: Men's 2x100m Relay; 8.45pm: Women's/Junior Women's Mile; 8.48pm: Women's International Mile; 8.55pm: Men's Mile; 9pm: Cooks Classic Mile.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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