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medal hopes are high as around 50 Gisborne surf lifesaving athletes prepare for the Eastern Regional Championships being held at Mount Maunganui this weekend.

They will join 850 competitors from across the North Island at the carnival. The total entry is significantly higher than that for the same event when it was held in Gisborne last summer.

Mount Maunganui finished on top of the points table last year, with 165 points, but they were pushed hard by Kaiaponi Farms Waikanae, on 123.

Dawson Building Midway were third, on 64, and Riversun Wainui were 13th, on 15.

The closeness of the contest between Waikanae and Midway in the Gisborne and Champion of the Bays carnival a fortnight ago, and the performance of Wainui, bode well for the chances of all three clubs this weekend.

Waikanae will have just 19 athletes competing this time, Midway 14 and Wainui 18.

“The club will have a lot fewer athletes taking part this weekend, and that will affect our overall status in the competition,” Waikanae head coach Cory Hutchings said.

Clashes with events in other sports had taken a toll on the Waikanae numbers.

“We're going over to the Mount more focused on individual title performance,” Hutchings said.

Lachie Falloon will be one of the individual performers who should be strong for Waikanae.

He was the top-performing under-16 male in the Champion of the Bays, with wins in the u16 board and ironman, and a second placing in the u16 ski.

“Briana Irving (u19), Jamie Gedye (open), Seven Mapu (u19) and Oska Smith (u16) will be strong for us in the beach events,” Hutchings said.

All four won their age-group sprints at the Champion of the Bays.

“Georgie Pitkethley and Christy Tate are strong performers to look for in the board and ski events respectively.”

His goal for the team this weekend was that they all perform to the best of their ability.

Midway head coach Matt Sutton said his club looked forward to continuing the building process this weekend.

“We've got some youngsters going away for experience and some more experienced athletes who competed well at the Champion of the Bays,” he said.

“Sasha Fergus and Jessica Fearnley, for example, will be athletes to watch in the under-16 swim and board, and Callum Torrie could be a chance in the open men's board and ski events.

“We are missing a few of our stars this weekend — Cory Taylor, Olivia Corrin, Matt Scott, Chris Dawson — but it's not about points for us. It's about getting a few individual results and continuing to build our club team.”

Midway's one-point loss to Waikanae for the Ralph Morse Shield a fortnight ago showed how well that building process has come along.

Wainui head coach Dion Williams said his club team would be almost unchanged from the crew who fronted up well at the Gisborne championships.

“I'm really happy about that,” he said.

“They did so well in the team events we entered that weekend.

“It will be exciting to see how they take that up into the regional championships.”

Leading the club's charge will be Ava Smith and Jack Keepa, along with the likes of Jonty Evans, Hue Cowie, Noah Collier, Stella Smith and Hannah King.

“They'll be really competitive and should earn the club some points,” Williams said.

“Our two junior girls' canoe teams are exciting prospects, and performed so well two weeks ago.”

The top team won both the long- and short-course events.

“It will be good to see where those girls can take their performance at the regional level,” Williams said.

The championships begin at 4pm tomorrow afternoon, with the beach sprints and beach relays through to finals, and likewise for the double ski events.

It should make for a strong start to the championships, for the Waikanae club in particular.

Jack Keepa, Wainui
Wainui Canoe Crew
Lachie Falloon, Waikanae
Jessica Fearnley, Midway
Georgie Pitkethley, Waikanae