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Middle Distance Heroes return to Christchurch

Media Release
25 January 2012 – for immediate release

Middle Distance Heroes return to Christchurch

Olympic stars Nick Willis and Lucy van Dalen will headline the middle distance events at the International Track Meet, New Zealand’s premier track and field event, at Christ’s College Upper Field in Christchurch on Feb 2nd.

Willis will race a one-mile, an historic event on the grass track sure to evoke memories of the great races in New Zealand in the 1960’s, including the world mile record set by Peter Snell in Wanganui in 1962. Following Willis’ scintillating sub-4 performance in Wanganui this week, he has stated that if the conditions are right he will be seeking to repeat the feat on grass. International competition will come from the Czech Republic’s Petr Kaminski, and Australian teenage sensation Luke Mathews, who will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Australian record holder Ryan Gregson, who broke through with a stunning victory and Australian junior record in the 3000m at the International Track Meet in 2009.

Van Dalen will compete in the Brian Taylor Memorial 3000m, with a strong challenge to come from Dutch star Susan Kuijken, a triple medallist at NCAA level in the US college system. Both have a 1500m personal best of 4m05. Behind these two, local interest will centre on Rebekah Greene of Otago who was 7th in the 3000m at last years World Junior Championship, and multiple New Zealand Secondary Schools champion Rosa Flanagan of Canterbury.

Van Dalen, who is best known for her exploits overseas, was looking forward to having some home support. "I am really excited to be attending the ITM in Christchurch for the first time. I have never run on a grass track before so I can't wait to give it a go. After being overseas for five years it will also be nice to have a home crowd cheering me on".

The 800m races, which were a feature of last year’s programme (commemorating the 50th anniversary of Peter Snell’s world 800m record on grass at Lancaster Park in 1962), look like being another opportunity for the rising stars of NZ 800m running to showcase their talents. In the women’s race, Angie Smit of Canterbury will look to make it three in a row at the International Track Meet, when she takes on Australian Olympian Zoe Buckman, a 1500m semifinalist in London last year. Smit had a stellar season in 2012 after winning the 800m and the Brian Taylor Memorial Development Award at the International Track Meet, going on to win the New Zealand title in Auckland, and then going within a whisker of qualifying for the Olympics, running 2min00.67 at a race in Belgium in July.

Wanganui’s Brad Mathas, the winner of both the 800m and the Nick Willis Development Award at the 2012 ITM, will be back to defend his 800m title, and will again face competition from around New Zealand including New Zealand Secondary Schools champion Scott Hilliar (Waikato), Matt Lambert (Nelson), and Nelson based Cantabrian Hayden McLaren.

Event Director Paul Coughlan said today “It’s important to us to recognize our Olympic heroes like Nick and Lucy, and give them an opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a home crowd – we know the atmosphere at Christ’s College last year was amazing and that the crowd will get behind them again. We are also pleased to be able to honour Brian’s legacy in Canterbury athletics, and remember all the victims of the 2011 earthquake, it’s great to have this feature event supported by such top athletes. And of course with Nick in the mile, there’s such a magical tradition and history around that event, especially on grass”.

Tickets are now on sale for the International Track Meet, go to the website www.internationaltrackmeet.co.nz for details.

ENDS

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