Eighteen-year-old Kiwi sprint sensation Edward Osei-Nketia opens the track action at the Cooks Gardens Classic on Saturday.
Osei-Nketia had a rapid rise in the sport in 2019, winning selection to the World Championships in Doha, winning the Australian senior title, setting New Zealand age group record of 10.19 for 100-metres (only .08 shy of his father Gus' New Zealand record) and closing the year with a New Zealand Schools title.
Osei-Nketia has a very good chance of pocketing two incentive awards for breaking the Cooks Gardens record, with the Under 20 record sitting at 10.73 and the senior record held by his father Gus of 11.49 set in 2000.
The main competition comes from New Zealand international and regular visitor to Cooks Gardens, Joseph Millat, who went to the top of the 2020 rankings with his winning run at the Tauranga Twilight on New Year's Day.
New Zealand international Georgia Hulls heads a strong women's field in the 100m, where there is strong Whanganui representation from New Zealand Schools internationals Genna Maples and Tayla Brunger. Hopefully they will be joined by teammate and New Zealand Schools record-holder Sophie Williams who has been injured.
Osei-Nketia may not be the first to pocket a record incentive as the meeting opens with the men's high jump featuring New Zealand co-record holder Hamish Kerr (2.30m), who also holds the Cooks Gardens record of 2.22m as of last year.
Kerr demonstrated he is in good form by winning the Lovelock Meet in Timaru at the start of the month with a 2.23 effort. He will be joined by a quality field that includes former Whanganui athlete and decathlete Max Attwell, who finished fourth at the World Student Games in July.
The Jumps Camp held in the city in conjunction with the Classic and the annual Jumps to Music in Hawera next Wednesday has guaranteed quality in both the men and women's high jump, where with a field of 10 has all our leading jumpers competing. Both the senior and junior Cooks Gardens records are under threat.
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The New Zealand under 20 men and women's 3000m championships are being contested at the Classic on Saturday. The former has strong local interest with Liam Back, who is on a build up for races in March, starting as one of the favourites. Back won the New Zealand Schools senior boys 1500m title and the under 18 800m/1500m double last March.
He has teammates Andres Hernandez (winner of the under 18 road race in New Zealand record time), Zach Bellamy, George Lambert and Ben Conder for company in the field of 19 athletes.
Handicap action returns to Cooks Gardens with the 400m. All run in seeded races with handicap times deducted to settle the three podium places in the mixed field. The popularity of the event is evident as four heats will be run to produce the result.
Action starts at 7pm with the meeting ending with a medley relay over the classic mile distance (1600m). It is fitting that in Heritage Weekend in Whanganui the Classic ends with a race over the classic distance at the iconic venue.