Stephen Smith produced his best run for some time to head home the open handicap field in Saturday's Johnston Memorial cross-country event at Westmere.

Smith, the current Wanganui Harrier Club president, was one of the few early starters able to hold off the chasing hordes and his win over the tough 8km course is testament to the psychology of open handicap events.

Aware that Thomas Ditchfield was steaming up quickly behind him, Smith dug in up the final climb to keep the youngster at bay, eventually crossing the finish with 45 seconds to spare.

Ditchfield turned in his best run in club colours to claim second in the 35min 22sec, which was the fastest time of the day. A minute further back, Ashley Christie finally wore down Darren Redit to nail third place. Abby Hopper mirrored the effort of Smith in the women's Challenge Shield to triumph by 29 seconds over the chasing Di Matthews.


Hopper was battling coming up the hill for the second time in the 6km event but found a bit extra to ensure that Matthews would not wear her down. Matthews, in turn, had a two-minute buffer over third-placed Kim Whyte.

Whyte only just managed to hold third from Amber Walker whose time of 34min 30s was only two seconds slower than fastest runner of the day Nelda Hazelhurst.

In the Carter Family Trophies for the walks, Les Purdy broke the resistance of Bill Charnock to take line honours by 37 seconds.

Darol Pointon was alone in third ahead of Barry Ross who clocked quickest time of 45min 32s for the 6km walk.

In the women's event, Diane Hay was too strong for Suzanne Muirhead and stretched out her initial 30-second head start to win by 51s. Host Pat Carter was third while Megan Allan clocked the fastest time for the women of 55min 23sec.

In the age groups, Kenneth Padberg was strong in running 27min 37sec for the M18 6km to take the Stoneman Cup.

Dylan Page kept the chasing Jordan Reardon at bay in the B16-B14 Cheatley Shield. Reardon was impressive in clocking 19min 2sec over 4km. In the G16-G14 Shingles Cup, Jackie Hazelhurst comfortably kept Brittney Matthews behind her to take the honours.

The Bayler Cup for the under-12s was a bonanza for the Hazelhursts as Helena kept ahead of Joseph to easily take bragging rights.

Lucas Reardon held on for third ahead of the fast-finishing Ben Conder, whose 9min, 15sec for the 2km was good reward for a valiant chase. Ethan Barry took the McBeth Trophy for the under-9s.