Westshore's Liam Bowden in action during the open men's beach flags. Photo / Rob Stephenson
Sweet 16 was the triumphant chant from members of the Westshore Surf Lifesaving Club as they returned to their clubrooms on Sunday night.
The 71-strong contingent had propelled the club to the top spot in the tussle for the Hawke's Bay surf lifesaving championship title for the 16th consecutive year. The club's director of lifeguarding, Brian Quirk, who couldn't attend the final day of the champs at Waimarama because he was on patrol duty at Westshore was among the first to congratulate the team.
"Officials introduced a new points system this year which disadvantaged us but we still managed to beat Ocean Beach Kiwi by 31 points," Quirk explained.
He was referring to the fact points accumulated over six carnivals contributed to the champs. In the past one weekend of competition decided the title winner.
"Between 10 and 15 per cent of our competitors go to university. This means they either miss the first carnival or do it without any training. In previous years they were always peaking for the champs weekend," Quirk said.
"Having the biggest team out at Waimarama was a key factor in our success. OBK were only nine points behind us on Saturday night but on Sunday we got plenty of competitors in the water. We're also continuing to train a whole new group of kids each year. This year we had our biggest lifeguard intake for 15 years and out of that we had 34 new lifeguards ... the club is going well," Quirk, who has been involved with the club since the 1960s, said.
He again heaped kudos on the work of senior coach, 25-year-old Otago University physical education student Cian Jefferson, who again competed as well as coached.
Jefferson won gold in the open men's ironman and 2km run events and was a key member of several teams.
Fifteen-year-old Hannah Cotter won four golds, open women's beach flags, under-16 flags, board and ski races and was prominent in several teams. Her sister Kaitlin, who spent most of the summer training with the New Zealand women's hockey squad in Auckland, won the under-19 2km run and beach flags events.
Other "rock stars" as Quirk labelled them for Westshore included Bridget Page, Liam Bowden and Mahina Ross. Page won the open women's ski race, the under-19 ski race, the under-19 double ski title with Olivia Gray and the under-19 ironwoman title. Bowden won the open men's ski race title. Ross won the under-16 surf race title and diamond lady titles.
"We've got a good mix of youth and experience and I was impressed with how our athletes adapted to the different conditions. There were tricky conditions on Saturday and they told me there was some big surf on Sunday," Quirk said.
Another vital ingredient to the Westshore club's success was the return from Australia of 42-year-old Chris Swain last month. One of the club's most successful coaches earlier in his career, Swain, gained valuable points in several events as a competitor.
Quirk agreed having Swain's services for all of next summer and Jefferson's for a longer period as he only has one semester remaining at university will boost Westshore chances of a 17th consecutive title.
"Our mantra is we will never give it away. They will take it off us. We will go down fighting and anyone who wins it will know they won it," Quirk added.
Final points in the Hawke's Bay champs were:
Westshore 647, Ocean Beach Kiwi 616, Waimarama 483, Pacific 0.