Organisers of the International Track Meet, being staged on the grass track at Christ’s College in central Christchurch on Feb 4th, announced today that Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis will step back in time to run a handicap 2-mile race at the meet, against world class opposition.
This innovative yet historic event, which mirrors one of the races held at the meet at Lancaster Park 50 years earlier in which Peter Snell broke the world records for 800m and the half-mile (880yds), is another way that NZ’s premier international track and field event is to celebrate the historical factors associated with the anniversary weekend.
The handicap format is one commonly used in athletics in the 1960’s, as well as in cycling and road running events. In a reverse-grid type format, slower athletes start at regularly spaced intervals, before the big names take off last and try to chase them down. With Willis in the final “scratch” bunch will be some of his Michigan-based training squad, American stars Will Leer & Brandon Bethke and US-based Briton Lee Emmanuel. Lined up in their sights will be American Patrick Tarpy (to be fair, once a 3min54 miler in his own right) and the cream of NZ-based middle distance runners including national 3000m steeplechase champion Brett Tingay, former national cross-country champions Alex Parlane of Auckland & Andrew Davidson of Canterbury, and Otago’s Caden Shields. The crowd can expect some exciting close-quarter racing as the field comes together in the last couple of laps.
Willis stated today that he was really looking forward to coming back and competing in Christchurch following the cancellation of last year’s meet after the earthquake, and was particularly looking forward to running on grass in true “old-school” style. “I’ve trained on grass my whole life, I never trained on a synthetic track until I went to the States, and I can’t wait to now get the chance to run in a professional meet on grass just like they did back in the day” said Willis today.
Meet organisers are continuing to add athletes to event fields, and are expecting a packed house for the intimate venue. Holders of tickets to the ill-fated 2011 event will be able to have those tickets redeemed at the gate, pre-sales are available at various sports stores and council leisure venues in the city, or online at www.internationaltrackmeet.co.nz. Gates will open at 3pm for a 4pm start to the meet.
For further information on the meet or the charity luncheon to be held on Friday the 3rd of February, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Snell’s world records, go to the event website www.internationaltrackmeet.co.nz.