By Murray McKinnon

Samuel Tanner in the senior boys and Hannah OConnor in the senior girls will be aiming to successfully defend their New Zealand Secondary Schools cross country titles at the Spa Thermal Park in Taupo on Saturday.

Tanner has come a long way since winning the year nine boys title in 2014 and will shortly be leaving for the world under 20 athletic championships in Finland next month.

A talented field will line up for the senior 6km which will include last years junior winner Liam Back and runner up Andres Hernandez, Murdoch McIntyre, George Cory-Wright, Reuben Thompson, Jude Darby, Lochie Montgomerie, Benjamin Wall, Max Karamanolis, Saxon Morgan and Logan Slee.

After finishing second in the year nine girls in 2014 OConnor has won every year since, the junior girls two years in a row and last year the senior girls. Providing plenty of competition in the senior girls 4km will be Tessa Webb, third last year, last years junior winner Charli Miller, Aimee Ferguson, Sofia Kennedy, Martina Conner, Liliana Braun, Lucy Rowe and Lucy Hegan.

Those to watch in the junior boys 4km will be William Anthony, year nine winner last year, Finn Seeds, George Lambert, Josh Hou, William Taylor, David De Vaal, Nathan Sands, Jack Julian, Zane Powell, Sebastian Wharton and Christiaan Cumming.

Jemima Antoniazzi, the national under 15 champion and Isabella Richardson will lead the charge in the junior girls 3km. Staying competitive throughout will be Ashleigh Alabaster, Maia Flint, Joanna Poland, Leila Dunlop and Rosie Trotter.

Mathijs Wetzels, Jonah Seeds, Joseph Morgan, Christian De Vaal, Liam Davis and Zachary Manning are expected to battle out the year nine boys 3km while Amelia Green, Myah Houthuijzen and Lucy Bartlett should feature in the year nine girls 3km.

Anton Besseling last years para-athlete senior boys winner returns to defend his title over 2km.

Almost 1000 athletes have entered in the eight event programme which starts with the year nine girls at 10.30am.

The regional relay championships will be held on Sunday.

Boys and girls teams to take part in the Australian open and schools cross country championships on the Sunshine Coast Queensland in late August will be selected following this weekends championships.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Athletics New Zealand