The mile race has formed the heartbeat of the meeting. Nick Willis has ran a record-breaking five sub-four-minute miles at Cooks Gardens, including the meet record 3:52.75 which he ran when pipping Craig Mottram (3:53.14), in an epic encounter in 2006.
The rich mile heritage of the meet remains its main selling point but, as meet organiser Alec McNabb explains, its ability to innovate has also been a strength.
“We have introduced the Fastest Kid on the Block for under-12 athletes which has proved really popular,” he explains. “Kids aged 12 and under run throughout the region with the fastest kids competing at Cooks. It has become a vibrant part of the meeting with the kids getting a 15-to-20 minute slot to compete.”
A winner-takes-all 400m handicap and in the past a javelin handicap have also proved a hit with spectators and athletes alike.
The Mile is an event made famous at the Cooks Gardens, by Sir Peter Snell’s world-record-breaking mile of 3:54.4 in 1962, the event has since become synonymous with the classic distance. Over the years, Cooks Gardens has witnessed some 65 sub-four-minute miles with some of the international greats of the sport such as Craig Mottram, Kip Keino and Mo Farah, plus Kiwi legends Rod Dixon, Sir John Walker and Dick Quax, all achieving that feat at the iconic venue.
This year editions features the NZ Mile Championships for both Men and Women. 5 Men in the field have run under the 4-minute barrier, and a few more will be wanting to join the 38 New Zealanders who have run under 4 minutes. The Women’s field is headlined by Camille Buscomb, she raced an 800m last week, and will be looking to run under 4 minutes 30 seconds.
The two New Zealand National Records holders in the 400m Hurdles are due to race the opening events of the Cook Classic. Portia Bing comes off making the final of the 100m at the Potts Classic, where Cameron French had a strong win in the 400m Hurdles.
The flat sprints will be highlighted by the 200m races. In the Women’s, inform sprinter Natasha Eady should have it all her own way. Running personal bests over both 100m and 200m in November, and 3rd place finish at Potts last week, she is in form to dip under her PB of 23.35.
The Men’s 200m, sees a much-anticipated rematch of last week’s 100m from the Potts Classic. With Tommy Te Puni, an upset winner over NZ and Oceania Champion Eddie Nketia. Nketia is the reigning National Champion over the 200m, but will be pushed again by Te Puni, in what will be one of the races of the night.
Tori Peeters is coming off some breakout performances in the early part of 2020, highlighted by her New Zealand record throw of 62.04m at the Continental Tour Meeting in Sydney. Currently ranked 25th in the Tokyo Qualification rankings, she will be looking to use these meets to throw far, and earn all important points in her bid to qualify for Tokyo.
The three-time defending NZ National Champion and 2017 Oceania Champion, Ben Langton-Burnell, headlines the Men’s javelin throw. He will be looking to get back to his form of 2017, where he threw his Personal Best and represented New Zealand at the World Championships.
The top 4 Female Jumpers in New Zealand of 2021 are down to jump in the Women’s High Jump, whilst the Men’s High Jump is highlighted by New Zealand Record Holder, Hamish Kerr. Kerr will be looking to continue his good start to the season and targeting that Olympic Qualification mark of 2.33m.
Evergreen Jumper Scott Thompson is looking to add to his impressive career with a win at the Cooks Classic and will be targeting a first National Championships later in the season. The Women’s field is lead by Anna Thompson, the 4 time national champion will be looking to start her year off well in a bid to regain the National Championships.
The World Under 20 Shot Put Champion, Maddison-Lee Wesche highlights the field in the Women’s Shot Put. The Olympic standard of 18.50m will be within her sights, as she looks to qualify for her first Olympic Games.
In other events, Cook Island’s national Record Holder Alex Beddeos, has been able to get out of the Cook Islands, with a recent change in border policy between NZ and Cook Islands. He is entered in the 800m, in his first race since the National Games in October.