Cooks Gardens has once again delivered Whanganui a prestigious international athletics track and field meeting.
The world famous venue will host one leg of five meetings at four venues that make up the 2018 Athletics New Zealand International Series ahead of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
The series begins in Timaru on March 14 and ends in Auckland on March 25 with Cooks Gardens in Whanganui locked in for Wednesday, March 21.
Helping to organise the Whanganui leg, Kevin Ross and Russell Sears from Whanganui Sports Heritage, say athletes, including internationals, competing in the series have yet to be confirmed.
The series, however, has been scheduled with the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April firmly in mind.
"The usual Games qualifying meetings — the Potts Classic (Hastings), the Cooks Classic (Whanganui) and the Capital Classic (Wellington) in January remain," Sears said.
"But the international series has been timed to co-incide with international athletes from Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales arriving in Australia in March to train for the Commonwealth Games April. We are confident some of those will cross the Tasman for this new international series."
The series is also timed to benefit New Zealand athletes competing on the Gold Coast.
Athletics New Zealand High Performance director Scott Goodman sees the benefits of having meets in front of Kiwi fans ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
"The Athletics New Zealand International Series is an important part of the preparation for our team ahead of the Commonwealth Games," said Goodman.
"We expect the athletes will be firing and they will be excited to compete against the best in front of New Zealand fans," added Goodman.
The new series will also be home to the world renowned One Mile Championship first run at Cooks Gardens in 1898. In fact, it was the first ever mile to be run at Cooks Gardens and was the New Zealand Athletic Association's National Championship.
In recent years the One Mile Championship has traditionally run during the Cooks Classic in January, but that will now move to the March date.
"The Classic series does not have a mile qualifying race and only has the 1500m and that will remain so we have moved the One Mile Championship to March," Ross said.
Ross has just moved back to his hometown after many years away and was a top athlete in his day.
Ross, along with household names Dick Quax, Dick Taylor and Wanganui Collegiate old boy Tony Polhill, still holds the 4 by one mile relay world record at 16.02.4 set in Auckland in 1972.
Since Peter Snell's epic world record-breaking mile at Cooks Gardens in 1962 (3.54.4), a total of 41 athletes have eclipsed four minutes at Cooks 63 times.
"All 41 who have run sub-four minutes have been invited back to the gala dinner the night before the March 21 meeting to receive a numbered cap," Sears said.
"The caps will have the athlete's name, date of their sub four minute run and their time emblazoned on it. All are still alive and while we have had a good response at this early date we cannot confirm how many are coming yet," Sears said.
A secondary schools competition will run in conjunction with the international meeting at Cooks gardens with teams representing Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Palmerston North and Whanganui expected to compete.
The series begins with a new event, to be held in Tom Walsh's home town of Timaru. The Timaru Super Shot, (14 March) will see Kiwi's Walsh and Jacko Gill taking on some of the best throwers in the world within the natural amphitheatre of the Caroline Bay Soundshell on Timaru's waterfront.
The popular Big Shot event in Christchurch will once again feature on the calendar, with the elite throwers heading to the Garden City to put on a show for loyal Canterbury athletics fans. This competition, hosted by Christchurch's International Track Meet Trust saw New Zealand records tumble in 2017.
The Skycity Vertical Pursuit (18 March) will see the highly successful Vertical Pursuit "street" pole vault event, held at Britomart this February, move to the Federal Street entertainment precinct at Skycity in Auckland's CBD. Once again Kiwi star Eliza McCartney will take to the runway, alongside a great cast of New Zealand and international athletes.
Rounding out the series is the Sir Graeme Douglas International (West Auckland, 25 March). Formerly the Auckland Track Challenge this event has been renamed for Auckland businessman, philanthropist and great supporter of athletics Sir Graeme Douglas, who passed away last year. Returning to its original home of Douglas Track & Field, West Auckland and supported by Douglas Pharmaceuticals, this event will feature many of New Zealand's Commonwealth Games-bound athletes and national representatives from other Commonwealth countries.