THREE of Tasmania's best endurance runners head into tonight's prestigious Zatopek Classic in Melbourne with contrasting goals.
While James Hansen and Hugh Nicklason are seeking early-season form gauges after impressive performances this week, Jake Birtwhistle switches sporting focus with his sights firmly set on victory.
``Last year I came third so I'm hoping to improve on that,'' said Birtwhistle, who is seeking to improve on the Tasmanian record of 8:09.12 he set in the under-20 3000 metres.
``I'd be very happy with 8:05. To get a win would be good but I'm not sure how the time will go because tactics could play a part in that.
``Training is going well so if the race is quick I should be OK to go with the pace.''
The Western Suburbs 18-year-old continues to juggle sports having become both a triathlon Youth Olympic gold medallist and Tasmanian 10-kilometre champ this year. Tasmania's under-18 male athlete of year admitted this has altered his preferred distance.
``I don't think 1500m would be my favourite any more. With focusing more on triathlons I am moving towards the 5000 I have to do for that.
``But I was a bit disappointed with my 5000m at the Victorian champs a few weeks ago and am looking forward to getting back on the track.''
Nicklason, 17, of Hobart's Eastern Suburbs, will be looking to better his 3000m personal best of 8:35 set in this race last year and is fresh off third and fifth places at the national all-schools in Townsville.
``My training's been a bit inconsistent recently so I'll just be trying to run a PB,'' he said.
``I'd like to go mid 8:20s. Last year's pace here was really quick and it got to me but I learned a lot about pack running. It's a fairly big field every year and was a lot different to anything I've done before.''
Hansen, Tasmania's under-20 male and distance athlete of year, will run the open 800m fresh from finishing second to David Thomas in Sunday's state 5km road titles in Launceston.
``My preferred distance would still be 1500m and I'm a bit more serious in that so I feel I can relax more in 800s and 5ks and see where I am at,'' North Launceston's state 800 and 1500m champ said.
``I guess because they are either side of it, if both are going well I should be in good 1500m shape.''
Hansen, 20, who will target his 1:52 PB set at the state championships, will run miles at the Launceston and Devonport carnivals before a training camp at Falls Creek.
Athletics Tasmania executive officer Brian Roe will be at Lakeside Ovalatn Albert Park for a meeting that has a cherished position on the national athletics calendar.
``The Zatopek Classic is a time-honoured event,'' he said. ``It kicks off the national athletics series and is traditionally a middle and long-distance meet where athletes can check their early-season form.''
Former Riverside athlete Karinna Fyfe, who now studies in Melbourne, will run the women's 10,000m.