As Imogen Ayris, Ettiene Du Preez, Olivia McTaggart, Isabella Murrell, Nick Southgate and James Steyn pounded the all-weather track over the 100m straight with a pole clasped in their hands, Eliza McCartney jogged leisurely between chats and massaging the keys to her cellphone in Hastings.
While McCartney is off limits to any strenuous stuff now it doesn't mean she isn't gunning for the impending Tokyo Olympics from July 24 to August 9 in Japan.
"She's in the rehab phase so she's well placed to getting back into running," says Jeremy McColl, the coach of the 2016 Rio bronze medallist who is part of the 10-day camp at the EIT Institute of Sport and Health indoor facilities at the HB Regional Sports Park.
"Everything's looking very positive for her for the European season," says McColl of a period spanning after May, confirming Tokyo remains her goal but qualifying prefaces that.
The 23-year-old will not compete at the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic this Saturday, after disclosing on social media days before her birthday on December 11 that she had a "genetic disorder that causes auto-immune inflammation, particularly affecting tendons". She withdrew from the world champs in September.
"She just needs to get back into form and there's no rushing that because if you do there's a potential risk so Eliza is just in a slow, build-up phase," says McColl.
McCartney, who holds the New Zealand and Oceania record at 4.94m, had to settle for 4.85m here last year in the quest to join the exclusive 5m-plus group of women. Rio Olympian Wilma Murto, of Finland, was second at 4.41m and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games representative McTaggart was third at 4.31m.
The classic here is the first one for the pole vaulters to ignite their season so getting on a roll, as it were, is crucial in what they consider to be good conditions here despite training indoors for now.
"James has been jumping pretty high and Olivia's got some potential qualifiers in her as well," McColl says of Steyn, who has a PB of 5.50m, while McTaggart will try to eclipse 4.46m. "It's a long season but the main thing is to get off on a good start."
After an outdoor pre-competition last year, this year the stable is zeroing in on indoor pole-vaulting records.
Southgate holds the Kiwi indoor men's record at 5.20m established almost three years ago, so smashing that to mark the opening of the multimillion-dollar Hawke's Bay facility here will be wicked.
"It's world class and that's what we need in New Zealand because of the weather and all the other factors here we need to be able to train all year round," says McColl.
The public can watch the pole vaulters compete indoors for a gold coin from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Wednesday. The proceeds will go to Cancer Society Hawkes Bay, as it does traditionally from the Potts Classic.
"You have indoor pole vault, high jumps, sprints, amazing aerial strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, medical, bio-mechanics — it's got everything it needs to be an international facility," McColl says.
Training in Hawke's Bay, says McColl, is a no-brainer and the facility is an added bonus that takes it new heights.
No doubt, after the classic he and his athletes will have a better idea of where they're at with their constitution.
"They're all excited to compete and love being here in Hawke's Bay."
Nineteen-year-old Ayris (4.20m PB), McTaggart, 20, Southgate, 25, Sydneysider Murrell (3.71m), 21, are young and improving so the emphasis is on building on their templates. Du Preez, 29, has a PB of 4.70m.
"The new qualification system changes a whole lot because it's based on rankings, points and bonuses so it's made it more challenging, especially if you're from New Zealand, but, at the end of the day, they just need to jump high," says McColl, mindful they have ample time to work towards their goals.
Myriad meetings from next month to March will provide the trigger points to make numerous launches. The New Zealand Championship in Christchurch in March will become a timely fulcrum to peak for some who are wanting to gain maximum points.
McColl is delighted Hastings will host the nationals next year and the year after.
"I've been wanting to see Hastings get the nationals for a long time because the conditions here are so good for performances so I'm super happy for you guys," he says.