FROM THE SOUTHLAND TIMES:
Southland's track cycling team is eyeing a trifecta of national Points Shield titles when the national age-group championships start in Invercargill today.
For the first time this year the elite and age-group national championships have been split into two events.
The elite championships were held in Invercargill last month and the age-group championships will start this morning and will run through until Saturday night.
The overall provincial honour that is the Points Shield is still a combined contest.
Points are awarded for competitors who pick up national medals and, following the elite championships, Southland sit second behind Canterbury. However, the home team is about to unleash a large contingent of 48 age-group riders for the title defence this week.
Southland coach Ross Machejefski was confident that his team could hold on to the shield.
"Just through sheer numbers and strength I'm very confident that we can win it again," Machejefski told The Southland Times yesterday.
"We're looking pretty good. Everyone is in good shape and ready to go."
Southland has good hopes across most of the grades.
Michael Culling should prosper in the under-15 boys grade, Sophie Williamson in the under-19 girls, Tom Beadle in the under-17 boys and one of Southland's rising sporting stars, Pieter Bulling, in the boys under-19 category.
Bulling will form a strong Southland pursuit team with Brehan Cairns and Dillion Bennett.
The four under-19 riders will be eyeing a strong carnival, with the national age-group championships the key selection event for the New Zealand team to head to the world junior championships in Italy in August.
As well as teenage cycling stars the Southland team will field a strong group of masters riders to help it try to defend the Points Shield.
Leading Southland contenders in the masters grades include Jackie Dearlove, Erin Criglington, Jerard Stock and Michael White.
The championships will start this morning with the expected four- hour session including under- 17 sprint qualifying and under-19 3000m individual pursuit qualifying.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Points Shield was donated by the West Coast- North Island association and was first contested in 1947.
- Southland won the shield in 1966 but had to wait until 2008 to win it again. They defended it in 2009.
- Before Southland's 2008 victory Auckland had been victorious for six straight years.