Dunedin hosts New Zealand's largest athletics meeting at the weekend with the 45th New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field and Road Race Championships starting Friday and running through until Sunday.
Even the far south venue has not dampened the enthusiasm of the athletes or made a significant drop in the number of athletes competing with an entry that is just shy of Auckland's entry two years ago.
Over 1300 athletes have entered from 210 schools and although smaller in terms of athletes competing than New Zealand's largest secondary schools event, the Maadi Cup Rowing Regatta, it does garner entries from a greater number of schools.
Whanganui is represented by three schools, a large team of 34 from Wanganui Collegiate (the third largest from any school) an encouragingly large team of 17 from Whanganui High School and a sole entry of Jessica Pfefferle from Nga Tawa who competes in her specialist discus.
As readers pick up their Wanganui Chronicle this morning Whanganui High School will be on their journey south to Wellington for their flight to Dunedin and the Wanganui Collegiate contingent will be anticipating their flight from Whanganui to Christchurch with Air Chathams and the road trip south from the Garden City.
There is some real quality in both teams with four Collegiate athletes part of the 15 strong New Zealand Secondary Schools who will compete in the All Australian Schools on the weekend following Dunedin.
A further three Whanganui Cross Country Schools Internationals will be on the Track and Road in Otago (Zach Bellamy and Sarah Lambert (Collegiate) and Rebecca Baker (High School).
One of the track athletes, Genna Maples will have additional pressure on her as a young Year 11 athlete. She is still a junior (under 16 at the end of the year) and is chasing a rare three titles in a row in the 100 metres and as a team member in both the Collegiate junior 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 teams.
She also defends her long jump title and having come second over 200m at the past two championships would love to go one better in the half lap event, even if it is not her favourite. She can expect especially strong opposition from Nadia Evans (Long Bay College) and NZ Schools teammate Annalies Kalma (St Peters School)
Rebecca Baker (High School) won the North Island under 16 1500m and 3000m and steps up with good credentials to the senior ranks while NZ Schools Cross Country teammate Sarah Lambert (Collegiate) has chosen the Road Race as her main target.
Liam Back (Collegiate) goes south under an injury cloud and has opted for 800m as part of the build-up for the 1500m in Cairns a week later. Back will be encouraged by a fast 600m in Inglewood on Tuesday. Back's training partner William Sinclair has made good progress in both 800m and 1500m and should on form be near the front of the field in both.
Emma Osborne (Collegiate) won the junior 400m last year and steps up to seniors with the best time of the season although expects a strong challenge from Charlotte Holland (Auckland) and teammate and New Zealand under 18 champion Tayla Brunger. They will both be in the same Collegiate 4 x 400 team along with captain Grace Godfrey and 300m hurdler Sophie Redmayne who is chasing a maiden national podium finish over hurdles.
Travis Bayler (High School) is a young senior who is coming into good form and with another year left at school has every chance of reaching the top half of the 400m field.
His relay teammates Connor Munro and Jonathan Maples should go well in the 300m hurdles with Munro also vaulting and doing the 110-metre-high hurdles, while Maples returning from injury starts in the 200m.
Munro's sister Paris in Year 10 had an injury setback in Wellington but should still do well in both junior hurdle events setting the foundation for her final year as a junior in 2019.
Fourteen-year-old Sophie Williams (Collegiate) has moved to fourth in the under 18 100m rankings and will gain huge experience sharing in sprint events with the aforementioned Genna Maples. Williams also runs in both relays and will, along with Maples and Ana Brabyn, give a solid base to the teams. Brabyn starts in the 800m and tops the 14-year-old performances in the under U16 event.
Other young athletes who should make an impact in Dunedin include the High School junior boys Nathaniel Kirk and German exchange student Karl Loebe who looks especially good over 300m hurdles and 800m. He adds an international feel to the junior vault alongside Chilean exchange student Pedro Claro (Collegiate) in the nine-strong field.