Promising young Whanganui athlete Liam Back is on the build up to the race of his life in Paris, France in early April.
The Wanganui Collegiate 16-year-old is in the New Zealand team to compete at the prestigious ISF World Secondary School Cross Country Championships. Back is one of six males in the Kiwi team and they will be joined by a team if six females on the journey to Paris.
Back has his eye on the 5000-metre prize using the upcoming New Zealand Classic series as his build up to peaking in April.
Back, who still has two years in the under-18 grade, ranks 14th over 800m (1m 58.36s), eighth in 1500m (4m 02.62s) and 12th in 3000m (8m 51.76s) when setting Collegiate junior records in each.
He also demonstrated by his competitive record winning key races that there is more to running than setting ranking performances. Back is also ranked sixth over the steeple barriers.
Back won the junior boys' 1500m a the New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field and Road Race Championships in Hastings in December just gone to claim his first major track title.
Coach Alec McNab said his charge was a canny runner with sensible goals all aimed at the world championships.
"Liam is so switched on about things and I think he was feeling a bit anxious that others were running quick times, but I have told him the aim is to peak for Paris," McNab said.
"The aim at the moment is basically to get miles into his legs. Liam is a sensible runner and has an ability to perform well in key races, the races he targets."
The Classic series begins with the Capital Classic in Wellington on january 20 followed by the Cooks Classic in Whanganui on January 23 and the Potts Classic in Hastings on January 27.
Back will also eye up the National Under-20 3000m Championships in the Porritt Classic in Hamilton on February 10 and possibly the steeplechase as well.
"I haven't run a 5000m in this current campaign, I'm building up to that using the Classic series," Back said.
"There are six of us in the New Zealand team and we will be running as individuals and also as a team, there's a lot at stake."
The plan is to run several 3000m events in the Classic series, although the 1500m at Cooks Gardens is also a distinct possibility.
"The Classic series will be used to get him to peak by April and not necessarily an end in themselves - they are simply to get him fit for Paris," McNab said.
Back was named National Junior Sportsman of the Year at the 2017 Ray White Whanganui Sports Awards in November.
The youngster moved from Auckland to Whanganui specifically to advance his running career.
"I came down from Auckland, and I can tell you right now, the facilities here are a lot nicer than up there," Back exclaimed to an approving cheer in his acceptance speach at the awards.
He especially enjoys the one-on-one coaching he receives and rates Cooks Gardens the best athletics venue in the country.