City to host track champs

By Iain Hyndman

For the first time in six years Wanganui will host the New Zealand Speed Skating Track Championships this weekend and will feature a mix of national and international skaters.

Staged at Jubilee Stadium from Saturday to Monday, the track championships follow on from the road championships hosted by Palmerston North from Wednesday until tomorrow.

About 100 skaters from eight New Zealand clubs, three Slovakians and one German skater are entered. The Kiwi contingent represent the cream of New Zealand's resident skating talent. With Columbian-based double world champion and world record-holder, Peter Michael not back in the country until February's Banked Track Nationals, the men's grade will be wide open with sprinters Antony Nalder (Valley Inline) and Josh Whyte (Kapiti) vying for honours with distance specialists Ollie Jones (Valley Inline) and Braden Judd (Manawatu).

In the women's grade defending champion Steff Challis (Valley Inline) will face off against her world's teammate Emily Van der Hayden (Timaru) and Wanganui contenders Melissa Whyte, Jessica van Bentum, Rebecca Smith and Nicole Travers. Former Wanganui junior Judah Kelly, now skating out of Timaru, is a real threat in the open events. Manawatu's Dania Gibbs is always quick indoors.

Kelly should have little competition in the junior girls road championships having already clocked some of the year's fastest time trial times in tours before the nationals. But indoors, in Wanganui, Valley Inline's junior girls Georgia Hurley and Olivia Mayhew will give her a run for her money with Wanganui's Monique Cleeve a chance in the longer distances.

The junior boys' events will feature Wanganui's Eden Smith who has been on a fast improvement curve leading up to the nationals. He just may prove to be a dark horse in this class, but Mt Wellington's Zachery Biggs, a classy indoor skater who's ice skating background made him almost unbeatable last year, is back to defend his titles.

Wanganui has a great chance for titles in the juvenile girls class where Euginia Lee will go head to head with Timaru speedster Ella Benson in the time trial and Renee Teers, Georgia Reynolds and CJ Dillion will back her up in the longer events.

Caitlin Ferguson and Chase Morpeth will be favourites in their respective primary grades while Krystine Davies will be a real chance in the masters.

Racing starts at 10am on Saturday.

Admission is free.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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