Saturday’s national cross country championships in Christchurch will double as the Oceania cross country championships. It will be the first time that Oceania have held their championships in New Zealand. Australia, Cook Islands and Guam have sent representatives to race against the New Zealanders athletes.
Andrew Davidson of Canterbury will be wanting to complete the quadruple this cross country season adding the Oceania and national titles to the North Island and Canterbury titles won in the last month.
Davidson outgunned 2007 champion Edwin Henshaw to win the North Island race in Taupo and won the Canterbury title in 39m 27s, 43s ahead of Rowan Hooper.
In the 2007 national championship Davidson was fourth and last year at Waikanae he finished sixth.
Hooper, second for the last two years, to Henshaw in 2007 and to Ben Ruthe last year year will be keen to cap off this season with the title.
Henshaw has returned from his Tulsa base in the States for the New Zealand winter season of races. He won the North Harbour cross country and the Auckland title by over a minute ahead of Stephen Lett as a lead up to regaining the national title.
Timothy Rowe from New South Wales has crossed the Tasman to compete and also from Australia are New Zealanders based there Shaun Krawitz and Luke Hurring.
Krawitz was the 2002 New Zealand under 18 champion.
Stefan Smith of Wellington had a taste of the Halswell Quarry Park course being used for the championships, opting for the recent Canterbury championships where he finished third. Smith was also an impressive third in the North Island championship.
Also expected to be in the front running will be Wellington champion Rees Buck, Kim Hogarth of Nelson, Sam Dobson of Auckland, Dougal Thorburn of Otago and six times champion Phil Costley of Canterbury.
The women's title should be battle between Fiona Crombie of Canterbury, Rachel Kingsford of Otago and Hannah Lawrence of Auckland. Crombie won the Canterbury title in 29m 32s, Kingsford was second in Otago and won the North Island title while Lawrence, who has returned from her American athletic scholarship, won the Auckland title.
Melissa Moon is back in form and improving with each outing. Moon is seven times national champion and her past best performance was second in 2006. At the North Island championships Moon was second half a minute behind Kingsford. Sarah Biss of Waikato Bay of Plenty is enjoying one of her best cross country seasons for some time. Biss the 1994 under 18 champion and the under 20 champion in 1996 was fourth in Taupo and won the Waikato Bay of Plenty title. Melinda Vernon from Australia will be competing. Vernon won the 2007 Zatopek 10,000m in a deaf world record of 34m 28.85s.
The men 19 title should be a race between runner up last year Aaron Pulford of Waikato Bay of Plenty and Harry Dixon of Tasman while Danielle Trevis of Auckland, Nicki McFadzien of Canterbury, Olivia Burne of Manawatu Wanganui, Christina Taylor of Southland and Barbara Roy of Otago should feature in the W19 6km.
There will be an added incentive to win in Christchurch this Saturday as the winners of the senior and junior races will be an automatic selection to the world cross country championships in Poland in March. The other podium placings will be pre-selected to join a pool to be considered with the trial placings. A trial for the world championships will be held in late January.
Richard Bennett, on his home course, should win the masters men while Bridget Ray of Waikato Bay of Plenty, Wendy Cottrell-Teahan of Manawatu Wanganui and Tracy Crossley of Canterbury should feature in the master women's 6km.
Mohamed Ali of Waikato Bay of Plenty and Margot Gibson of Canterbury are expected to head in the 16 grade races.
The championships start at 10am with the master men's. The senior women start at 2.15pm and the senior men at 3.15pm.