Perennial champions South Canterbury again pipped hosts Wanganui in the 2021 Speed Skating Nationals.
Wanganui hosted the nationals in the city from December 29 to January 3. The Road championships were staged at Kowhai Park, the Flat Track at Jubilee Stadium and the Marathon at the Manfeild circuit in Feilding.
Once again the overall team competition came down to a head-to-head battle between Wanganui and the perennial champions South Canterbury and, once again, South Canterbury pipped the hosts with 238 points to 216.
Dunedin's Southern Speed were third with 56 points.
In the individual championships, the Wanganui skaters were always to the fore.
Master's Men's skater Paul Cleeve was a star for Wanganui. Cleeve won his grade overall and picked up four golds and a handful of silvers. Cleeve was awarded the Jo Bright Trophy for Outstanding Male Skater.
The award for Outstanding Female was won by first-year junior Erin Green, of Blenheim, who finished second overall by one point to Timaru star Charli Nevin.
Andrew Jones won gold in the Senior Men's 10K Points on the Road, the 300M TT and 3000m on the flat track a well as two silvers and a bronze. However, Jones' results in other races were frustrated by some tactical racing which saw him unable to show his full potential. The overall title went to Hadley Beech of Southern Speed.
Georgia Hurley, of Valley Inline, won the Senior Women's grade from South Canterbury's Charlotte Clarke.
Chase Morpeth and Drew Brennan were outstanding in the Junior Boys Championship. Morpeth was crowned overall champion and Brennan third overall despite being the youngest skater in his grade.
Morpeth won four golds and a stunning silver in the Open 10K indoors behind Beech, while Brennan picked up four silvers and two bronze.
Wanganui was strongly represented in the Cadet Girls where Nelson's Mikaela MacDonald won the overall in an epic battle from Wanganui's Tazia Parker with only four points separating them at the end. Parker took wins in the 500M Road and 300MTT and 1500M Indoor.
Gabby Valentine picked up a silver in the 300M TT and Keria Brennan and Mikayla Wason battled hard all nationals. Newcomer Sophie Liang was a real surprise package, picking up speed as the racing progressed and has the look of a potential champion.
The Cadet Boys grade was dominated by Wanganui's Josh Valentine, who won all his races except the 300MTT and 3000m Indoor races which were taken by his teammate Mickey Zhang.
Manawatū's Nathan Bradford was outstanding and pushed the Wanganui skaters hard in every race for third overall. Wanganui youngster's Braydon Wason and Austin Clifford both showed great improvement and will bear watching for the future, as will Austin's younger brother Matthew.
The Masters Women's grade was dominated by Wanganui's Krystine Davies with her daughter Melissa Allen (White) second from Hamilton's Roma Silva Rojas, a visiting Chilian skater.
The primary grades featured great racing, with Eden Wason winning gold in the 400m flat track and taking second overall behind South Canterbury's Mia Rich in the girls and Caleb Valentine third in the Boys to Manawatū's Tane Garcia-Soto.
The Marathon featured gutsy wins to South Canterbury's Keaton Swindells in the Men's and Charlotte Clarke in the Women's while Wanganui's Josh Valentine dominated the Junior Boys' Half Marathon and Nelson's Mikaela MacDonald the Girls'.
The best racing of the championships was seen in the relay races.
The flat track mixed senior team relay was the highlight of the championships. The Wanganui team of Chase Morpeth, Andrew Jones, Krystine Davies and Melissa Allen led out early after a stunning charge to the lead by Morpeth and then seemed to have the race in the bag when South Canterbury's Keaton Swindells fell while running second.
However, Swindells - despite being in considerable pain - got back up and his team of Kaylum McAuley, Charli Nevin and Roshean O' Conner staged a fightback that saw them take the lead on the final exchange and claim an astonishing victory in front of an hysterical crowd.
For their performance, the South Canterbury team won the Oscar award for an outstanding performance.
Wanganui got plenty of consolation, with a win in the Road Junior Boys relay to Josh Valentine, Braydon Wason and Mickey Zhang. The Junior Girls team took a fine silver with Tazia Parker, Gabby Valentine and Mikayla Wason.
On the Flat Track, the Junior Mixed team of Josh Valentine, Mickey Zhang, Tazia Parker and Gabby Valentine went one better than the seniors and claimed the gold.
The Wanganui Boys team won the Junior Boys team relay, with Austin Clifford stepping in to fill the big shoes of Josh Valentine and join Mickey Zhang and Braydon Wason on top of the podium.
The Junior Girls followed suit, with Tazia Parker, Keira Brennan and newcomer Sophie Liang taking the gold. The Senior Men's team got redemption for the mixed seniors loss to South Canterbury.
In an incredibly even and talented field, Andrew Jones, Chase Morpeth and Drew Brennan came home ahead of South Canterbury's Keaton Swindells, Kaylon McAuley and Jan – Henrik Kuepper, with Southern Speeds Hadley Beech and Brett and Mark McCormack third.