An all-star cast of surf lifesavers will line up tomorrow for a crack at one of New Zealand's most prestigious ironman races.
Sunday's annual Omanu Day of Champions carnival, sponsored by Placemakers, features the Ian Porteous Memorial Ironman on its distinctive M-shaped course and has attracted reigning national champions Max Beattie and Devon Halligan.
Beattie will go head-to-head with his Omanu clubmate and defending champion Ben Cochrane, who recently won the Mount Monster endurance race, while Halligan will also wear the red and white Omanu cap for the first time as she looks to defend the title she won last year.
That race involved a sprint finish with Mairangi Bay star Danielle McKenzie, who returns from an outstanding season on the professional circuit in Australia.
Other top females racing this week include Jess Miller (Mount Maunganui), while Hamish Miller, Daniel Barron, Kane Sefton and Isaac Marshall (all Mount Maunganui) and Papamoa's Mason Bryant add starch to an impressive men's lineup.
With more than $6000 in prizemoney, including $1000 each for the ironman and ironwoman winners, the Day of Champions provides the perfect lead-in into next week's Eastern Region championships in Mount Maunganui and race director Chris Emmett is impressed with the field.
"I'm delighted we can honour Ian's memory with a field like this," Emmett said. Porteous died aged just 44 the day before the club's annual long-distance ironman race 20 years ago. It prompted his good mate Denny Enright to establish a memorial race for the teacher, conservationist, family man and proud Omanu club member.
Previous winners of the men's title include a cluster of the best ironmen New Zealand has produced, including Aaron Jarman, Cory Hutchings, Mark Muir, Matt Sutton, Cory Taylor and Beattie.
While Sutton won't be racing this weekend, he's bringing up a Midway team full of young talent, including 15-year-old star Olivia Corrin.
Corrin starred at the recent Gisborne championships, keeping pace with the top male board-paddlers in the country of her age, and is looking forward to having a serious crack at the likes of reigning national board champion McKenzie and Halligan.
"I'm really looking forward to testing myself against the top elite athletes who compete in Aussie," Corrin said.
The Day of Champions, which is also sponsored by Dolphin Surf Craft and Mount Surf Shop, will get underway with heats at 10am, followed by a fast-paced series of finals from 1pm.