Northland's top-ranked athletes Hayley Gilcrest and Riana Phillips can't wait to make use of the new all-weather track at Kensington Park.
The rubber-base and mondo-like surface is currently being laid and once it is completed, their club, Athletics Whangarei, will have full use of the facility, allowing the athletes to work on perfecting their technique ahead of the national championships in late March.
Gilcrest, a 300m hurdler specialist from Dargaville, and Maungakaramea high jumper Phillips are the only two athletes from Northland who have qualified for this year's nationals.
Their coach, Chris Portch, said preparing an athlete of national standard on a grass track, as opposed to an all-weather track, was a huge drawback for them.
"We are the last region in New Zealand to get an all-weather track - the nearest is Sovereign Stadium on the North Shore," he said.
"The girls have done a lot of travelling to Auckland and Hamilton to compete ... They have been significantly disadvantaged not having a facility to train on in winter - with the all-weather track, we will see considerable change."
Sixteen-year-old Gilcrest is currently ranked New Zealand No.7 in the W16 300m hurdles, with a time of 49.26 seconds, after taking up the discipline in 2009.
"She has lowered the Athletics Northland record in each of her last three races - and all these records have been achieved on all-weather tracks elsewhere in the country. Her best time on our present grass track is 54.1secs," Portch explained.
Now she will be able to train over the hurdles throughout the winter as the new track will have permanent markings.
"At present we have to measure out the hurdles markings and maintain them every week."
Fourteen-year-old Phillips has the ninth best high jump (1.56m) in the same W16 division, and like Gilcrest, did her best jumps at all-weather tracks elsewhere, Portch said.
"Riana will have a consistent, level surface for her run-up and take-off - at the moment, allowances have to be made at training for variations in ground conditions."
This weekend, Kerikeri's Rachel Martin is competing at Athletics Auckland's Hot Meet, attempting to qualify for nationals in the steeplechase. Under-18 athletes will get another chance to make it to Christchurch, at the North Island Interprovincial Athletics meeting, in Auckland, on January 23.