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National 3000m fields strengthened by Internationals

National 3000m fields strengthened by Internationals

27th January 2014

Top quality international class athletes have confirmed their intention to race against New Zealand’s best in the New Zealand 3000m Championships for both men and women at next month’s International Track Meet in Christchurch.

Organisers announced today that in addition to New Zealand’s finest domestic middle distance athletes vying for the national titles, the fields would be strengthened further by the addition of three Australian Olympians and an Irish international.

The men’s field for the New Balance 3000m will be headlined by Oceania record holder over 10,000m, Ben St Lawrence, who will be familiar to ITM fans after winning the 5000m at the 2010 meet, the last held at QEII Stadium. St Lawrence, who ran the 10,000m for Australia at the London Olympics and boasts an outstanding 3000m personal best of 7min40sec, will be joined by Irish international cross-country rep Mark Hanrahan, who finished fourth in the Hunter Classic in Australia last week. The fastest Kiwi in the field is current national 1500m and half marathon champion Hamish Carson of Wellington, who posted an impressive 7min49sec in Europe in 2011, and is fresh from his second place in the national 10,000m title race in Auckland last week.

Offering a strong challenge to Carson for the New Zealand championship crown will be Canterbury duo Daniel Balchin and Callan Moody, both national 1500m finalists in the last two years; Auckland’s Stephen Lett, a double NZ champion at 10,000m; Wellington’s Matt Harris, who chased Nick Willis through for third in the Cooks Classic mile in Wanganui last week, and Wanaka’s rising star Oska Inkster-Baines.

The field for the Brian Taylor Memorial Women’s 3000m is also looking very strong, with Australian Olympians Eloise Wellings and Genevieve LaCaze confirmed to compete against the best of the Kiwis. Wellings ran in both the 5000m and 10,000m at London in 2012, while LaCaze was Australia’s sole representative in the 3000m steeplechase. Wellings also competed at the Commonwealth Games in both 2006 and 2010, finishing fourth in the 5000m in Melbourne.

They will be joined by the New Zealand title contenders Rosa Flanagan, who recently qualified for the World Junior Championships; Holly van Dalen, whose twin sister Lucy was involved in an exciting battle with Dutch Olympian Susan Kuijken in the same race last year; and Canterbury duo Nicki McFadzien and Rachel Kingsford, who were both members of the NZ squad at the prestigious Chiba Ekiden Road Relay in Japan late last year.

Event director and trustee Paul Coughlan is delighted at the strength of the fields already, and expects more New Zealand athletes to signal their intentions before entries close on the 10th of February. “The fields are starting to come together nicely – the nation’s best middle distance runners all want to take each other on for the national titles, but adding the international athletes spices up the quality a bit. It also puts a bit more pressure on to pick up the prizemoney, as well as the medals” he said today.

The strong development themes of the International Track Meet are again evident in these fields – local athletes Balchin, Moody, Flanagan, McFadzien, Kingsford, and former Cantabrian Harris have all been regular competitors through their formative years at previous versions of New Zealand’s highest profile track and field meeting. Most started as promising youngsters competing against their heroes, some back in the QEII days, and are now establishing themselves as some of NZ’s best athletes, that the aspiring stars of the future look to follow.

Balchin took away the Nick Willis Development Grant in 2010 for winning the under-23 1500m at this meet, and is now one of NZ’s top domestic athletes – he is the national 3000m steeplechase champion, represented New Zealand in the Chiba Ekiden relay squad in Japan in November, and won the Capital Classic 3000m in Wellington last week. McFadzien also competed at the ITM for the first time in 2010 as a 17-year-old, and last year had a breakthrough season, winning the New Zealand cross country title, finishing third in the Oceania Half Marathon championships, and anchoring the NZ team to 6th place at the Chiba Ekiden Relay. Local prodigy Flanagan competed at the meet for the first time last year, and was awarded the Brian Taylor Memorial Development Grant after bravely chasing Olympian duo Kuijken and van Dalen for third in this race. She has now qualified to represent New Zealand at the World Junior Championships in Oregon later this year.

Tickets are on sale now at City Council Recreation and Leisure Centres, as well as Shoe Clinic in Riccarton Mall and Smith Sport Shoes. They are also available online at internationaltrackmeet.co.nz/tickets.

ENDS

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