Speed was paramount at the 14th annual St John’s Club River City Tour speed skating event, held on November 25-26 in what was a well-supported event, with 60 skaters attending from Auckland to Timaru.
Stages one and two kicked off early on Saturday morning at Jubilee Stadium, arguably the best indoor skating venue in the country. Flying 100m laps helped determine the pecking order, so grades could be adjusted to ensure the best racing was had over the weekend.
In a first for the local club, the newly resurfaced Whanganui Airport runway was made available to host two stages of the tour, with the airport and contractor Fulton Hogan’s time kindly being donated to ensure the event was run smoothly and safely.
In cold and windy conditions, skaters battled a tough headwind and a fast tailwind in the opposite direction, providing tough but exciting racing.
A special stage was organised with a Whanganui policeman, who kindly took time out to clock the six fastest male and female skaters with his speed radar gun, to see how fast these skaters could go.
The fastest female skater was Erin Green from Blenheim who clocked 47km/h, and the fastest male skater Andrew Jones pipped Whanganui team-mate Chase Morpeth by 1km/h at a whopping 52km/h — usually enough for a speeding ticket, in this instance it came with a sizeable cash prize donated by Garyz Services.
Stages five and six were held at Mitre 10 Mega, any skaters not tired from battling the wind at the airport were left feeling so after the long stage-six races.
Stages seven and eight were completed at Jubilee Stadium on Sunday morning, along with nine special stages and skaters competing for donated prizes. St John’s Club president Royce Tunbridge was there to hand out the prizes to the placegetters and winners. St John’s Club is the River City Tour’s main sponsor.
Whanganui skater and junior worlds representative Chase Morpeth continued his good form following strong performances in Europe and at worlds, with an overall win in the men’s premier grade, taking it out from fellow Whanganui worlds representative Andrew Jones.
In the premier ladies grade, Whanganui skaters Tazia Parker was third and Sophie Liang fourth, both girls putting in some outstanding performances in a strong field of women, with the grade being won by Georgia Hurley from Valley Inline and Erin Green from Blenheim second.
In the other grades, Whanganui skaters competed well, with B-grade skater Micky Zhang winning and Keira Brennan a commendable fourth place. Masters skater Jerome Allen was too strong for Krystine Davies for a 1-2 Whanganui finish, with good performances by Scott Morpeth and Johnmen Zhang. The Valentine family of Joshua, Gabriella and Caleb, participating on Sunday only, had some good racing in their respective grades.
The Whanganui club had three new skaters competing for the first time, with Keira and Lillian Harris finishing a creditable second and fifth respectively in novice B, a good result considering the limited time on skates, along with the youngest skater at the event, Mackenzie Allen, only 6, who competed in her first competition. These novices now have a taste of competition and will be keen for more.
Coach Gary Clark was happy with his skaters’ results leading into the upcoming nationals being held in Blenheim, from January 2 to 7.