Tauranga runner Chris Morrissey nearly added another King of the Mountain title to his impressive resume over the weekend but had to settle for second in one of the fastest finished race organisers can remember.
Defending King Morrissey, previous holder Sjors Corporaal and the Pomona holder Ben Duffus from Australia looked like the three musketeers most likely to podium. Ultra athlete Ruby Muir made a surprise appearance, which teed up a monster race for the Queen title, with the defending champ Helen Rountree looking substantially stronger than her first outing last year.
The usual suspects went for the hole shot off the starting blocks with the smartly attired Hayden Wilde leading Leornado, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael.
Once the sprint blow outs had taking their toll, Morrissey went about his business and took the lead into the foothills. He looked strong, fast and gradually stretched out his lead over Corporaal, but Duffus was still well in the hunt with juniors Stricot-Tarbotton and Wilde also demonstrating some class.
After the gruelling climb to the peak Morrissey hit the summit in 33.39 with Corporaal soon to realise he had to put a big downhill in, having reached the summit in 34.15. Duffus had dropped off the pace into fourth with surprise package Lance Downie edging into third. Super vet Colin Earwaker (37.33) was just behind Duffus (36.16) to the summit.
Rountree demonstrated an incredible climb in 39.57 which was the 8th overall fastest summit time and almost 3 minutes ahead of Muir, which incidentally was her first ever time on Putauaki.
The downhill race was just incredible in both King and Queen Races. Corporaal was hunting down Morrissey in an unprecedented manner and got a glimpse of the leader at the skid site just before the final drop off to the compound.
Corporaal caught Morrissey at the compound and then a dual began with lead exchanges a plenty before Corporaal final broke Morrissey's resilience on the final climb before the bridge and Corporaal entered the chute in first place. He completed the final down time in what has been calculated at an average speed of 17.6km/h.
Corporaal posted a 13.40 downhill split which is an incredible achievement and ensured a pb of 47.55 to take out the King title, Morrissey also claimed a pb of 48.29. Downie came home some 3 minutes later followed by Duffus (52.19), who will certainly be a force to reckon with in the future.
The battle for the Queen was an exceptional showdown between two of New Zealand's finest trail runners around. Rountree smashed her 2012 time and in doing so earned a sub 60m time of 59.14 with the 21-year-old Muir coming home in 59.44. Both times were incredible performances and mighty accolades should be hailed to these outstanding athletes. The third lady home was the Aussie vet Hubertien Wichers.