A five-strong group of young Wanganui speed skaters will wear the Silver Fern against the Australians at the Oceania Speed Skating championships in Palmerston North next week.

It is an experienced line-up of four who will be joined by one international rookie at Memorial Park.

Wanganui club spokesman Ken Smith said Rebecca Smith and Nicole Travers would be competing at their fifth Oceania championships and should form the backbone of the New Zealand Junior Girls' (Under-19) squad, "who, for the first time in years, are likely to be outnumbered by their Australian rivals".

"Having been medal winners as part of previous winning teams, the duo will be determined not to loosen their grip on the Oceania Trophy," Mr Smith said.


Rebecca Smith in particular would be looking to take a leadership role after good form at the nationals earlier this year, when she dominated her age group while joining with clubmate Jessica van Bentum in pushing New Zealand No1 Nicole Begg to her limit in senior competition.

Eden Smith was a medal winner in the cadet grade at the 2013 Oceania championships in Australia and he will be stepping up to the highly competitive Junior Boys grade this year.

"He has shown a big increase in pace this season despite his national championship hopes being curtailed by a broken arm, and should make his presence felt at the front of the pack," Ken Smith said.

Monique Cleeve won gold in the cadets last year and will be hoping to repeat in Palmerston North, but will face some serious competition from her Timaru teammates in the New Zealand team.

Eugenia Lee is the debutante of the squad and the youngster will have to make a big step up to run with the leaders, but Ken Smith said she had form in the sprint races and was a Juvenile Girls (Under-12) national champion two years ago.

The skaters will be coached by Timaru's Brett McCormack, but Wanganui club coach Gary Clark will also be on hand to keep a close eye on his charges, due to his role as NZFRS Speed Sport chairman.

"Clark has seen a lot of the development work he has put into the Wanganui squad start to come to fruition this season," Ken Smith said.

Among those, van Bentum is now training and racing fulltime in Europe with the Arma Wheels team. She made a strong start to her campaign last weekend with an outstanding fifth and two sixths in the Junior A Girls class at the Geisingen International in Germany, which is one of the big events on the European calendar.

Smith said Wanganui clubmate Melissa White was also in Germany and would join van Bentum next week to train before taking in some events.

Rebecca Smith and Cleeve wanted to acknowledge the voluntary time their Wanganui High School fitness instructor Roger Marriot contributed to their conditioning.

The Oceania championships will start on Tuesday and continue until next Saturday.