Going in to the 1500m race final at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships, Tauranga's Sam Tanner knew Olympian Hamish Carson would be the one to beat.

For much of the race in Christchurch, both middle-distance runners positioned themselves at the back of the pack.

Carson, who represented New Zealand at the Rio Olympics in 2016, started picking up the pace halfway through and Tanner followed.

Towards the end of the second of three laps both Carson and Tanner showed their dominance before the real race began with about 200m to go. Carson was leading but Tanner shot past him with about 180m left and comfortably increased his lead until the end, to win the race and the national 1500m champion title.

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Finishing the race in 4mins, 8.97secs, it was the slowest winning mark to take out the title since the event switched from a mile event to 1500m in 1970, but the speed Tanner showed in overtaking six-time champion Carson was outstanding to watch.

Carson, bidding to match Sir John Walker as a seven-time national 1500m champion, had to settle for silver in 4:10.90 with Jacob Priddey (Otago) earning bronze in 4:11.99.

"I am stoked. I came in with the win as the goal and to achieve it feels awesome," Tanner says.

"I made my move at 180m to gain, pulled out and slingshot off the bend.

"It is an honour to compete and race against the big dogs."

This latest achievement is just one of many for this season, also breaking the New Zealand U19 1500m record and becoming the youngest Kiwi to break the four-minute barrier for the mile.

Tanner's coach Craig Kirkwood says going into the race they knew Carson would be the one to beat. He says the goal was to win, not record the fastest time, because of the importance of being technical in a title race.

Tauranga's Samuel Tanner of Waikato Bay of Plenty wins the men's 1500m final during the New Zealand Track and Field Championships at Nga Puna Wai in Christchurch on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images
Tauranga's Samuel Tanner of Waikato Bay of Plenty wins the men's 1500m final during the New Zealand Track and Field Championships at Nga Puna Wai in Christchurch on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images

Kirkwood says he went down to watch him race because it may be the last time he gets to see him run in New Zealand "for quite some time", before Tanner heads to America later this year to start a 4-5 year track and field and cross-country scholarship at the University of Washington, where he will study engineering.

Next for Tanner is the Australian Track and Field Championships between April 1-7, where Kirkwood says he'll be chasing another win.

"Hopefully go over there and run a really fast time, win the title," Kirkwood says.

With Tanner eyeing up the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kirkwood says it's a possibility but he has a lot of work ahead of him between now and then.

"It's getting closer and closer. It's not unfathomable, it's certainly going to be tough.

Sam Tanner's 2019 highlights:
January: Runs a 1500m distance PB at the Cooks Classic in Whanganui in a time of 3:43.01, beating the record held by future Olympian Nick Willis since 2001 as New Zealand's fastest 1500m runner under the age of 19.
January: Recorded a PB in the 800m distance at the Capital Classic Meeting in Wellington, to beat Nick Willis with a time of 1:49.42.
March: He became the 45th man to break the 4 minute mile of the One Mile Championship at the Sir Peter Snell International Track Meeting at Cooks Gardens with a time of 3m 58.4s.
March: Wins national 1500m title at 2019 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships, Christchurch.