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Local legend . . . . Paul Dominikovich stands next to the statue of 1936 Olympic Games 1500m champion Jack Lovelock at Timaru Boys' High School. Athletes attending the championships will have the chance to visit the school to view the statue and Lovelock memorabilia. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Hundreds of young athletes will converge on Timaru next week for the 46th New Zealand secondary schools’ cross-country championships.

Paul Dominikovich, who heads the group organising the event, said they were excited to be holding the championships at Timaru’s Ashbury Park.

“I thought it would be a brilliant location because of its accessibility, wide open spaces and with a few challenging hills.

“I think it could be one of the best courses in New Zealand.”

The course comprises a 1km loop and 2km loop and two steeplechase jumps and has excellent views for spectators. It was used for last week’s Aoraki schools’ championships.

Mr Dominikovich said bringing the championships to Timaru was the vision of local athletics official Craig Motley, who was the New Zealand team leader at the recent IAAF world cross-country championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

“We’re hoping to have 800 to 1000 athletes competing,” Mr Dominikovich said.

“They’re predominantly coming from the North Island.

“Cross-country is the secondary school sports event with the largest number of participating schools, with over 100.”

Also lining up will be 18 athletes from St Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, who will be in New Zealand at the time and have included Timaru in their itinerary.

With so many athletes and team management coming, accommodation would be at a premium, Mr Dominikovich said.

Some teams would be staying in Temuka and Geraldine.

Besides Mr Dominikovich and Mr Motley, others involved in organising the event are Mark Peters, of Run Timaru, and Kate Ormsby, of Sport Canterbury. They will be bolstered by close to 40 volunteer officials on the day.

“Some specialist help will be required and some will be coming down from Christchurch,” Mr Dominikovich said.

“We’re really grateful for the wider running community.”

A strong level of participation is expected from athletes in the Aoraki region.

As part of the championships, Mr Dominikovich is organising visits to Timaru Boys’ High School on June 14 for athletes to view the Jack Lovelock statue at the school and Lovelock’s medals and memorabilia in the memorial library.

A special T-shirt designed for the championships also has the image of Lovelock, superimposed against Aoraki/Mt Cook.

The championships will be held on June 15 and 16 with individual and three- and six-person team events on the Saturday and regional relays the following morning.

The championships were last held in Timaru in 1988.