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The two-day Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are taking place in Balclutha on February 8 and 9, and competitors will be vying for both podium places on the day and cumulative points towards circuit titles - and ultimately a better shot at nationals.
For Milton woolhandler Cheri Peterson, who started in the shed professionally in 2007 aged 21, this season's circuit began as simply another opportunity to hone her skills at the table, but has acquired a sharper competitive edge as it progresses.
"I came second in Waimate, and third in Lumsden, which puts me fifth-equal overall. The top four over the southern circuit get to go to the Golden Shears in Masterton at the end of the month, so I figure I'd better put my head down and get serious now," she said.
That would mean pulling ahead of seasoned woolhandlers she had "idolised" when she was younger, she said.
"It's indescribable getting to compete at this level with people like [fellow Milton woolhandler, fourth-placed] Tia Potae. You come through the juniors and intermediates watching them and learning so much, so it feels a bit strange to be up there among it. It's an honour."
Despite starting life down a different path - in hospitality - she said her family background had eventually led her back to the shed, where she now works for Davis Shearing.
"I used to manage a pub, but my uncle Ron Davis is a Master Woolhandler, and my mum [Trish] was a team cook, so I suppose you could say I've gone back to the family tradition."
Event secretary Clare Howat said Peterson would be one of about 50 woolhandlers and 55 shearers competing at the Balclutha War Memorial Hall during the weekend.
Spectator entry was free, and those attending could expect "non-stop, quick-fire" action and entertainment.
A licensed bar would operate from about 4pm each day, she said.
"For anyone new to the sport, they could do worse than coming to the Speed Shear on Friday night [7.30pm]. We've also got an international test between Wales and New Zealand, and several top national and international competitors on show. The Memorial Hall is a fantastic venue, so we're all set."
Otago Shearing & Woolhandling regional champs: Friday (8am-9pm) & Saturday (7.30am-6pm), February 8-9, Memorial Hall, Balclutha. Free spectator entry.