Van Dalen set for Classic

By Iain Hyndman

Wanganui Olympic runner Lucy van Dalen will use Tuesday night's Cooks Classic as a yardstick to measure her progress ahead of the New Zealand Championships in March.

The 24-year-old is spending her first summer training session at home since 2006, when she left for the United States, where she is coached by elite trainer Andy Ronan in New York.

Since returning home, van Dalen has committed to head the field in the Women's International Mile at the Balance Chartered Accountants Cooks Classic 2013 and is aiming to clock under 4m 40s in her first attempt at the distance for the season.

"The Classic will be a very good guide to show just where I'm at in this early part of the season build-up. It's always nice to run under 4.40 in the first of the season, so on Tuesday night ideally I'd like to run around 4.35," she said during a break in training at Cooks Gardens yesterday.

The 1500m specialist made the semifinals of the distance at the London Olympics in what she described as "the best experience of my life".

"The New Zealand Championships are in Auckland in March and I'll need to beat the qualifying times for the worlds in Moscow in August. The London Olympic times didn't carry over.

"It's so good being home, apart from the wind - that's not ideal for training in. I'm very much in the build-up phase of the season and in contact with my coach by telephone regularly. I'm doing high mileage stuff and probably won't start speed work until around April."

She has had a busy time at home this week trying to get mileage under her belt, while trying on dresses and buying wedding presents.

"I'm bridesmaid for one of my best friends on Friday here in Wanganui and then there's the Classic on Tuesday.

"After the Classic, I've got the ITM meet in Christchurch on February 2 and then I'll head back to Melbourne, where I'm based while I'm in the Southern Hemisphere.

"I'll continue training in Melbourne and then return home for the nationals in March - I'm really looking forward to it," van Dalen said.

Cooks Classic organiser and van Dalen's former coach Alec McNab has nailed some of the best athletes around to compete in the variety of disciplines on the card on Tuesday night. The headline act for the men's mile is Kiwi Olympic silver medallist and national record holder Nick Willis.

McNab confirmed there will also 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.

To this, 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 selected from this week's series of Fastest Kids on the Block heats run by McNab.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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