Athletes from nine schools from the region will do battle at the annual Whanganui Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships at Cooks Gardens on Wednesday.
The five Whanganui metropolitan secondary schools will be joined by the four schools from the region (Ruapehu College, Taihape Area School, Rangitikei College and Nga Tawa) at the event.
Although entries are down on last year (291 athletes) Whanganui High School (82) and Wanganui Collegiate (92) have the largest entries from the nine schools with well over 50 percent of the total.
Field action starts with the javelin at 12.45pm and track action commencing at 2pm. The evening session starts at 5.15pm with all track finals except the girls 3000 metres and sprint hurdles which are in the afternoon session. The popular evening session culminates in the relays at 7.25pm and the final 4x400m relay at 7.55pm.
The resurgence of the sport at Whanganui High School with large numbers training and attending club nights will mean closer competition with Wanganui Collegiate, who in the past years have won over 60 percent of the titles. Results from other schools in the region also suggests close competition in many events.
The medal winners from the weekend's New Zealand Championships must step up only days after the nationals.
Genna Maples (Collegiate) who took the sprint double in Hamilton at the weekend will be back in action and will add both the long jump and triple jump to her programme as well as shot.
Team mate and national champion Tayla Brunger will start as favourite in the 400m and will renew rivalry with Maples over 200m.
Liam Back (Collegiate), who took an impressive three middle distance titles in Hamilton, will be favoured to dominate the Intermediate boys middle distance events, while his team mates Joseph Sinclair and his brother William should be prominent.
Two athletes who were not in Hamilton will renew their rivalry. Rebecca Baker (WHS) has entered all three middle distance events and this promising national class runner will be hard to beat in Intermediate girls.
New Zealand Schools 400m under-16 champion Emma Osborne, who missed Hamilton, will again provide stiff competition for Baker over 800m.
Travis Bayler (WHS) had an outstanding debut New Zealand Championships and should feature strongly in the 200m and 400m while teammate Sophie Andrews should dominate the Intermediate throws with Jessica Pfefferele (Nga Tawa) starting as favourite in the senior discus.
Tadhg O'Connor, who set a junior record in high jump for Cullinane, will be back in action and will be hard to beat.
The Secondary Schools Championships always sees the emergence of new athletes, especially at junior level.
All athletes will be working towards selection as part of a large Whanganui team competing at a home North Island Schools Championships at Cooks Gardens over the first weekend in April.