The big men are coming to town. The good news about entries for the Cooks Classic on Saturday has just got better with the addition of former world champion and Oceania record holder Tom Walsh to the shot put field.
Spaces on the Bell Tower bank behind the shot circle will be at a premium to witness Walsh and Jacko Gill renew their rivalry with Gill winning their last meeting at the Night of 5s in Auckland in December.
The interest does not end with the men as the women compete at the same time and where Maddison-Lee Wesche has every chance of breaking Dame Valerie Adams' stadium record in a field that also has Adams' sister and world Para record holder Lisa Adams competing.
Sport is much more than just records and the shot where Walsh and Jacko Gill meet in competition is one of many events where we will be treated to outstanding competition.
Walsh was third at the last world championship in an event that the IAAF (now World Athletics) described as an event that "redefines men's shot put" with only 1cm separating the three medal winners.
Gill was seventh in that final and Walsh is the current New Zealand and Oceania record holder. He has held 25 New Zealand records at various times, 16 New Zealand championships (12 of them gold) and stood on top of the podium at both the world indoors (2018) and outdoors (2017).
Walsh finished third at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and in the epic battle at the world championships in Doha in 2019.
Jacko Gill has held through his career seven New Zealand records and won 10 New Zealand medals (six gold) and on his athletic journey has won two world junior and a world youth gold medal and is in excellent current form. Both have the added incentive of taking the stadium record currently held by Reijo Stahlberg of Finland of 20.06m set in 1980.
The mile field is outstanding with the first six from the Hastings 3000m all running under 8 minutes running at the weekend. With Hamish Carson added to the mix there is every chance of a large number (even a record-breaking total) running under 4 minutes to add to the impressive list of 65 who have achieved the mark at the iconic venue.
Sam Tanner, who won so impressively in December at Cooks Gardens, a venue where he ran a New Zealand Junior record over 1500m last year returns. Tanner won in Hastings and is in great form. Local interest surrounds George Beamish (third in Hastings) who returns to Cooks Gardens where he last ran as a member of the winning Whanganui Collegiate 4 x 400 team in 2014. Beamish was second in last year's New Zealand Mile rankings and would love to add a Sports Heritage sub-4 minute cap on the eve of his return to the US where he is on the same flight as Tanner.
There is local interest in the women's 400m field with Tayla Brunger lining up in a field that only a second separates the personal bests of all eight athletes. Brunger won in Hastings.
At a club night prior to Hastings Brunger impressed running home in a monstrous head wind stopping the clock in 39.44 demonstrating strength to her speed over the shorter sprints. There is additional interest as the elite men and two further heats also compete for a timed handicap prize.
The men's 200m features Hamish Gill (topped the 2020 rankings) many time New Zealand champion Joseph Millar and Edie Osei-Nketia with the latter two running in a pre-meet 100m at 6.10pm where the stadium record could be broken if conditions are favourable.
There are two 3000m under 20 championships with local interest in both. In the women's New Zealand Schools Road Race silver medal winner Mackenzie Morgan and teammate Josephine Perkins both are starters in the eight strong field. In the men's Collegiate former students Andres Hernandez and Zach Bellamy return and are joined by 15-year-old Daniel Sinclair in the 17-strong field.
Mid-programme at 7.45pm there are the exciting sprint finals of the popular "Fastest kid on the Block". There are six age group races for winners of the November/December events and will wear their district colours, a colourful break from the attack on stadium records on the track and out on the field.
The main programme starts at 7pm. The shot is at 7.30pm, the women's mile is at 8.40pm where Camile Buscomb has an opportunity to take the record held by Whanganui Olympian Lucy Oliver (nee van Dalen) and concludes with the Sir Peter Snell One Mile Championship for Men at 9.15pm.