Athletics New Zealand and Oceania Cross Country Championships, Auckland Domain - 7 August 2016
Jono Jackson felt a sense of relief rather than excitement at finally winning the national senior mens cross country crown. In an enthralling three way battle between Australian entry Nicholas Wightman, Canterburys Daniel Balchin and Aucklands Jackson over 10km of the demanding Domain course, Wightman made a decisive move going into the last lap leaving Balchin in a clear second position.
Wightman went on to win in 33 minutes giving ground for Balchin and Jackson to battle it out for the national title. On the final sweep down on to the main field and the run to the finish Jackson rose to the occasion and gathered in Balchin and went on to finish second and take the coveted title in 33:05, seven seconds ahead of Balchin. Wightman, the defending Oceania champion from Guam two years ago, kept the Australian tradition alive with an Australian always winning the Oceania title.
Jackson, a former national mountain running champion, said the win was good in front of a home crowd.
"Winning the title was sort of a relief more than anything. Its good to be with a home crowd because a whole lot of my friends and more of my family have come to support me and its good to get the win for them," said Jackson.
His tactics were to go hard the whole way as he did in winning the North Island title at Taupo over a month ago.
"The game plan was just to go the whole way because theres no point finishing a race a wondering what if I had gone the whole way so I thought I may as well throw caution to the wind and just do my game plan that Ive been doing all season and even though theres a whole lot better competition at nationals, I managed to get rid of everyone apart from Nick the Aussie and Balchin. They both got away from me on the last lap but I managed to just get Dan back. I knew Dan always pushes himself so hard so sometimes he cooks his goose a bit early so I was hoping I could just get a jump on him and hold it to the finish. The determination was there because Ive finished second, third and fourth so I really wanted to get this win while the likes of Hicksy is not around."
Balchin was disappointed at not being able to hold on for the title but was still pleased with the silver medal.
"The Aussie guy took off and I went after him and I was working pretty hard and I put a wee bit of a gap on Jono but it wasnt enough and coming up to the finishing straight he was right on me and I know that hes got a bit of a kick because Ive been racing him for years and he flew past me and I just had nothing left. It was a solid run by Jono. I was after the title but one or two is acceptable, Im not disappointed with my run. I was pretty injured at the end of last year, start of this year and Im getting back into it and Im enjoying that my bodys holding together and Im back up the top level of the domestic scene again," said Balchin.
Wightman from Geelong wanted to stay safe on the last lap in his defence of the Oceania title.
"I won two years ago in Guam, so I really wanted to win this year. I just tried to stay relaxed as possible, Jono, who ended up coming second, I sort of sat with him a lot and on the other guys and there was a break-away group of three of us the last couple of laps. I thought I might get away in the last lap so at the start of the last lap I put a bit of a surge in and I got a bit of a gap and they then got me back but around the top pitches I got away again and Im glad I did because the last few hundred metres was pretty muddy and I didnt want to have a hard sprint finish through the mud and risk falling over.
Wightman who has the Australian championships in Canberra in two weeks is hoping his winning form carries through as he has finished second over the last two years.
Oska Inkster-Baynes was fourth overall and third in the national championship.
As expected the womens championship ended up a two way battle between Rosa Flanagan and Laura Nagel early in the race before Nagel, the North Island champion, applied the pressure and made a break and went on for a comfortable 20 second victory, running 38:08 for the 10km.
Nagel, who also won the Oceania title, said that training has gone well over the past month.
"I felt good, training has been going really well and it was kind of nice to have a couple of easy days leading up to this. It kind of came together which was nice. It was really good to have Rosa next to me because I guess it was kind of the scariest part about coming home from the States I didnt really know what was going to be there, but no it was really good to have her to run against and Im sure well be head to head again in the rest of the year," said Nagel.
"The road is my favourite so Ill be doing the road champs in Masterton," she added.
Flanagan said that she was pleased to be back running again.
"I had a stress fracture and Ive been back for about a month now and so Im just getting back into it but loving being back out especially over cross country," she said.
Flanagan said that she was unable to go with Nagel when she put the hammer down.
"I just havent got that edge at the moment, but Im glad to be out running again."
Karinna Fyfe from Melbourne was third in 39:02 with Nicole Mitchell in fourth.
It was bronze for Fyfe in the Oceania championship and bronze for Mitchell in the New Zealand championship.
"It was pretty tough, 10km cross country is a long haul and Im happy to come away with third," said Fyfe.
In his last race in New Zealand for some time Cameron Avery, who is taking up an American scholarship, was a convincing winner of the under 20 title.
Dan Hoy took up the front running over the early stages of the race and took Harry Ewing and Matt Prest with him. However with Ewing also pushing the pace, Hoy dropped off and Avery started to move through. Going into the final circuit Avery had a good hold on the race and went on to win the 8km in 26:51 from fellow Cantabrian Prest and Ewing.
Avery said the surges put in by other runners played into his hands.
"I noticed as I started to catch them and I saw Dan look behind and as soon as he saw I was catching he put in a little surge and we were only on the second lap so that kind of gave me some motivation because one I thought it meant he was worried about me getting back on which gave me a bit of a moral and ego boost and two it meant I knew that all of them were putting in wee surges and stuff so it just gave me confidence that if I just kept going I would eventually catch them," said Avery.
"This has been my best training period ever, I havent been injured and been able to get through all my training and as a result I just had the best aerobic base on the day."
He said his move going into the last lap was opportunist as he stuck right by the tape marking the course in order to run on firmer ground.
"I was very fortunate in a way, because by the time I was struggling Id already managed to put some distance on everybody so I was able to cruise in mostly which was good because it was starting to hurt there at the end.
"Im going to America in two weeks to take up a scholarship at Stony Brook University New York. So for four years thats where Ill be," said Avery.
Hannah Miller, who was the first under 20 in the New Zealand half marathon championship in 1:18:57 in June, gave Southland a win taking out the under 20 womens title. Miller led throughout the 6km in 23:49. Grace Wood was second and Jes Kikstra third.
Miller said it wasnt the plan to go out early in the race.
"My plan originally was to sit with the front bunch but one didnt really form so I thought dam it Ill just go take the lead and see what happens and it paid off and Im stoked," she said.
"I leave for America on Thursday for a scholarship at Southern Methodist University in Texas and Im over there till Christmas and then come back and do a wee bit of summer racing and then back to the States and hopefully be back here for these championships next year," she added.
Isaiah Priddey managed the tricky ground conditions well to outgun the other under 18 runners and win the title in 20:25 for the 6km. Kalani Sheridan of Tasman ran the race of his life to finish second just six seconds behind Priddey with Trent Dodds third. Priddey said that he was pleased to make it as it was hurting towards the end.
"You never know how anybody else is feeling but youve just got to hope, you know youre hurting so youve just got to hope that theyre hurting as well and that was obviously the case and thats why I was able to .pull away down the end," he said.
I was really happy with that because I was obviously quite disappointed with the Auckland champs and how I slipped there, and it was good that I was able to redeem myself here," added Priddey.
He said that his training in the last week has been directed towards coping with the mud.
"We did a race time trial last week in quite muddy conditions and I was reasonably prepared for this," he said. Priddey is now looking forward to the Australian championships.
Hannah OConnor made it three years in a row winning at the New Zealand championships. OConnor gave no one else a chance as she shot to the front of the under 18 womens field from the start and stayed in command throughout the 4km winning in 23:49. Tessa Webb was second and Liliana Braun third.
OConnor said front running is her normal tactic.
"Thats normally how I run, just go out fast and try and maintain it. It was a good run with a few rises and the downhill was nice, quite muddy, but in Taranaki its muddy so its my forte. Im going to Canberra for the Australian cross country championships and then the road champs in Masterton," said OConnor.
Greg Darbyshire won the masters men 8km in 28:16, half a minute ahead of Dan Nixon with Liam Scopes third.
Despite his winning margin Darbyshire said he had to work hard the whole way.
"Deceivingly hard that course, the wind was probably more of a challenge than the mud and on that last lap it was starting to get pretty heavy and I had to call on all the reserves," he said.
Tony McManus won the masters 65 plus 6km in 23:50 from Barry Dewar and Ian Carter.
McManus said it was difficult in a large combined field to keep tabs on the various age groups running.
"Were very lucky with the weather, I came here yesterday to do a stride out with 18 spikes, got here today and put in 15. I was keeping an eye on where Ron (Robertson) was and a couple of other numbers, its quite hard in a big field," said McManus.
"I still enjoy running with groups and I have a lot of fun," he added.
Ron Robertson, 2011 IAAF world masters athlete of the year, easily won the 75-79 age group running 26:32 for the 6km.
"Its a long time since Ive raced cross country in Auckland, the last time was in Cornwall Park. Im still quite enjoying it, I havent done much for 12 months and this side of Christmas Ive tried to get back in and I came here today to try and get a good indication that I might go to the worlds in Perth," said Robertson.
Sally Gibbs a clear winner of the master womens 50-54 age group was an outright winner of the 6km in 23:51. Mel Aitken in the 35-39 age group was a distant second in 25:07 with Anna McRae (40-44) third in 25:17.
Gibbs despite winning by over a minute was surprised at the time.
"The time wasnt very good. The course suited me, its a good speedsters course the mud bogs you down a bit and the wind was a good stiff breeze. Im not injured at the moment and working back up. Im going to Perth and Ill be back here for the world masters next April, Ive already entered for it," said Gibbs.
Pre-race favourites took out the under 15 races Finn Seeds in the boys and Charli Miller in the girls. Other winners were under 13 Mathijs Wetzels and Abigail Edwards, under 11 Oscar Monro and Millie Jenkins.
Athletics New Zealand Annual General Meeting - 7 August 2016
Peter Maunder was elected President and Dianne Rodger Vice-President. Maunder, from Wellington has a long period of serving the sport as an official and administrator and replaces outgoing President Henry Tudor from Invercargill.
Rodger represented New Zealand in both the 1976 and 1984 Olympics in the 1500m and 3000m and also competed in the Commonwealth Games and World Cross Country Championships.
Mhyre Oman from Hamilton, a former President of Athletics New Zealand and Life Member of Athletics Waikato Bay of Plenty, was accorded Life Membership of the Association.
Merit awards went to John McBrearty from Canterbury, Ian Babe from Whangarei and Dr Stephen Hollings of Auckland.
Athletics New Zealand Chairperson Annette Purvis spoke about a successful year for the organisation although a deficit of $90,000 for the 12 months due to lower than expected member levy income is being addressed in the coming financial year.