New 3000m race effort to keep students competing

A new race to be held tomorrow is the latest attempt at retaining more students in athletics.

The Otago 3000m track challenge will take place at the Caledonian Ground in conjunction with the University of Otago's
150th anniversary celebrations.

It is open to anyone, although focused on students.

A paced race, it has attracted a quality field of 18 runners - 13 male and five female.

Included in the line-up are Oli Chignell, Rebekah Greene, Nathan Hill, Logan Slee and Russell Green.

There will be prizes for the first-placed finisher, as well as the top student runners.

The event is being held to recognise the connection throughout the university's history to the way students have taken time away from their studies to run.

However, in recent years the drop-off in participation after leaving high school has become significant.

It is prevalent in many sports.

The event, a joint venture between Athletics Otago and the university, is seen as a way to get runners to go down and have a race.

A similar event may be held in March, possibly a series of relays in which university halls will compete against each other.

''They didn't want to lose [students] to the sport and I think a lot of the poeple that come down are lost to the sport,'' Athletics Otago administrations officer Karen Palmer said.

''But we wanted to encourage them to keep going.

''Also to get other people involved that haven't been involved.''

Timing was difficult, both
in attracting students to the sport and in planning this event.

It had been decided to do it before exams, leaving it out of track and field season.

That also meant it had to fit in with the winter running calendar.

On top of that, the university year did not fit well with the summer athletics season.

''It's a hard one with the university,'' Palmer said.

''Their main year is outside our season; a lot of our season goes when they're away.

''It's really hard to get anything up and going because we're always trying at the wrong end of the season.

''At this stage we're heading into exams and at the other end of the year we're getting towards the end of our season.

''That's the prime time to get them in, but you're losing the six months in between.

''We just want to get them involved more.''

The race will act as a lead-in to the national road race championships, scheduled for September 15 in Cambridge.

Otago's track season is due to begin on October 5.

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