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Sunday, April 28, 2019

2019 Shaw Baton Relay Battle Hill Pautahanui Sat 27 April

In a lovely gesture, Olympic Harriers President Michelle van Looy helps Isabel Ross cross the pond 


Yes, this is a deliberate dunking

The first inter-club cross country race for the season was well attended. It is the first chance to assess the potential strength of the clubs going into the winter of racing. It can often be the first chance to see what secret weapons clubs may have gained and to identify where the threats and opportunities might come from.

It was a dull overcast day with the lingering threat of rain. The wind was a nuisance especially for the timekeepers exposed on the flat but otherwise in was Wellington in spring. The risk level for tent destruction would have been moderate.

The SB course was substantially the same as last year although the jump just before the right turn onto the gravel road is now gone. Most importantly the water obstacle that is the pond was intact although I am not sure the organisers needed to run the tape across from one side of the pond to the other. Cones marking the entry and exit points would have been enough.

For those running the relay for the first time the experience would have been interesting. The race is really quite neat and includes everything you could ever wish for in a cross country race. And with each lap 2km and four to a team it can get exciting as the clubs battle it out. It’s also a race where track runners do well as speed becomes critical when the gap between teams can be measured in seconds. Indeed there was a team for unaffiliated runners in the men’s race that seemed to include members one would normally associate exclusively with the track.

The bleachers at the pond were full of raucous spectators ready to pass judgement on how well individuals navigated the short stretch of water.  Yells of encouragement and screams of delight awaited the innocent who might suffer the consequences of a misstep. Most performed admirably while others were not so lucky. Reputations are gained and lost at the pond and the paparazzi were on hand to capture any unintentional dunking.

Women’s Race

In the women’s race the WHAC women dominated throughout with the Senior Women’s and U20 Women’s teams winning their grades. In fact in the SW race there were 3 WHAC teams home in the first 4 which shows depth.

Second behind the WHAC Women’s A team and over a minute back was the Olympic Harriers A team.  

Behind them and in third was the WHAC Women’s B team. They were all pretty spread out. 

Typically with all relays some perform above expectations while others simply have a bad day. It is not unusual for a member in a lower team to run a faster lap than somebody in a higher ranked team. It’s always been that way.    

Women’s Fastest Lap Times
7.16 Kirstie Rae (WU20)
7.24 Maiya Christini (SW)
7.30 Susannah Lynch (SW)

Lap 1 Women's Race

Men’s Race

For the last couple of years the team to beat in the men’s race is the Scottish A team. 

Historically the club has the depth to pick several teams capable of winning and in the past the club has managed to pick up first and second place. 

This year the question (for me at least) was whether a revitalised Victoria University Club would turn out to be a real threat to the established order. I know Dan Hunt has had this on his mind over the summer. But with injuries to star runners the prospect of Vic pulling a swiftie became diminished although you never can tell until it’s all over.  But it is pleasing to see the club building up its strength. Even Josh Ledger was there.

First into the pond was Niam MacDonald making an early showing for the Scottish B team.  

Not yet fully recovered from glandular fever he was running on residual fitness which he would have plenty of.  

On his shoulder was 800m track champion James Preston who put the Scottish A team into a strong position leading though to a decisive win.  

Chasing Scottish was the WHAC A team headed by Isaac Murphy with Scottish B next.  

In the Men’s U20 grade Toby Gualter spearheaded the successful by Olympic Harriers to steal a march on the WHAC U20 team who have traditionally dominated the grade at this race. 

The third runner to the pond and the waiting crowds Toby has had a great 12 months of racing the highlight of which would have been his selection to the Men’s Junior Team for the World XC Champs held in March. 

I noticed that Olympic have also managed to recruit Gus Reece which should make the rest of the season interesting. Things look like they could become serious and I couldn’t be happier.

Men’s Fastest Lap Times
6.13 James Preston (SM)
6.15 Toby Gualter (MU20)
6.20 Niam MacDonald (SM)
 Lap 1 Men's Race