NZ Road Relay Champs Preview
Wellington Scottish face a strong challenge from New Brighton Olympic in their defence of the New Zealand senior men’s road running relay title in Christchurch on Saturday.
The championships will see a total of 982 athletes competing in 135 teams representing 32 clubs in Athletics New Zealand's biggest championship event and the highlight for many of the winter season, are this year hosted on the classic Takahe to Akaroa route, which is open to entries outside the Canterbury region every four years.
Scottish, five times champions, won the national title by a wide margin when the event was at Akaroa in 2001 with North Harbour Bays prevailing on the course in 2005 and University of Canterbury taking the crown in 2009.
Teams complete eight laps over a total distance of 76.6km with lap lengths ranging from 6.8km to 10.7km.
Scottish have put together a powerful-looking combination for the tough terrain of Michael Aish, Ben Ashkettle, Hugo Beamish, Hamish Carson, Matthew Harris, Rowan Hooper, Martin Van Barneveld and Daniel Wallis. US-based Aish and Ashkettle, who lives in Melbourne, have returned to New Zealand to compete in the relay.
Pushing hard will be seven times former champions and runners up last year New Brighton Olympic with an eight-strong team of Mark Bailey, Daniel Balchin, Oska Inkster-Baynes, Matt Lambert, Hayden McLaren, Callan Moody, Nick Rennie and Dave Ridley.
Also challenging for a podium position will be Wesley, Pakuranga and North Harbour Bays. Wesley, third last year, are boosted with the inclusion of national cross country and road champion Malcolm Hicks, while Dale Warrander has crossed the Tasman from his Gold Coast base to run for Pakuranga. University of Canterbury, who held a mortgage on the title from 2007 to 2011, have entered Malcolm Cornelius, Andrew Davidson, Alex Gorrie, Thomas Holmes, Thijs Hubber, Matthew Ingram, Ethan Lankshear and Jack Moody.
Top quality teams entered by Hamilton City Hawks, University of Canterbury and North Harbour Bays should ensure a close and competitive race for the senior women’s title.
Four members of last year’s winning Hawks team have returned; Camille Buscomb, Helen Rountree, Sarah Biss and Katherine Prumm. They are joined by Mikayla Neilson, Emily Roughan, Kovo Kowalewski and Dawn Tuffery.
University of Canterbury won the inaugural women’s title in 1977 in Akaroa and have since won the title a further six times. Their formidable eight-strong team is Flora Brocherie, Tracy Croft, Leah Hirschfeld, Rachel Kingsford, Nicki McFadzien, Tania McWilliams, Hannah Newbould and Alex Williams.
Five times champions Bays will field Anna Bramley, Nikki Hamblin, Danielle Ingram-Trevis, Lydia O’Donnell, Amy Shaw, Fran Stafford, Holly Van Dalen and Katie Wright. Wellington Scottish and Wellington Harriers will also have medal aspirations.
Wellington Harriers will be defending their junior men’s title, staged over 40.7km and six laps, with a strong team of Marcus Karamanolis, Keiron McDonald, Oliver Smith, Patrick Roche, Jake Tennent and Nathan Tse.
However Auckland City Athletic, who has won every second year since 2007, will look to maintain this trend with a strong-looking team of Matthew Baxter, Kirk Madgwick, Asher Meltzer, Ben Moynihan, Hayden Rodger and Henry Watt looking to maintain this trend.
Christchurch Avon are capable of an upset with a solid and proven team of juniors in Cameron Avery, Tannock Blair, Matt Dryden, Sean Eustace, national youth road champion Matt Prest and Jacob Reese-Jones.
Athletics Nelson could force their way into a medal placing with Thomas Anderson, Josh Barry, Jeff Lautenslager, Hugo Lawrence, Mike Lowe and Allister Meffan.
Auckland City Athletic start favourites to retain the junior women’s title with a powerful entry of Maiya Christini, Audrey Gregan, Sophie Rees, Elise Salt, Victoria Watt and Ashleigh Williams.
The masters’ men should be a close contest between defending title holders Athletics Nelson and twice previous winners Scottish.
Nelson’s trump card is 31 times New Zealand senior champion Phil Costley who is ably backed by John Kennedy, Brian Kemp, Simon Leaning, Simon Mardon, Graeme Taylor, Ian Thomas and Peter Versey.
Scottish is led by Todd Stevens, who last weekend competed in the Berlin Marathon and he is joined by Joseph Bulbulia, Jim Jones, David Kettles, brothers Craig and Grant McLean, Peter Stevens and Michael Wray. Papanui Toc H with Richard Bennett and Don Greig in their ranks and Hamilton City Hawks are also medal hopefuls.
Scottish will be seeking a third successive win for three years in a row in the masters women. They will be hard to peg back with their entry of Helen and Sally Anderson, Anne Hare, Angela Leck, Jackie Mexted, Melissa Moon, Mandy Simpson and Tricia Sloan.
Auckland University will be attempting to claim the masters over 50 title for the fourth year in a row while Athletic Nelson will defend their inaugural over 60 title against strong competition from Athletics Tauranga, New Brighton Olympic and Scottish.
The battle for Best Overall Club – in which the three best placings of a club in any three grades determine the result – is likely to see Wellington Scottish, Athletic Nelson and Hamilton City Hawks prominent.
The junior men and women and masters over 60 start their relay quest from Allandale at 9.30am and finish at Cooptown while all the other grades start from the Sign of the Takahe at various times from 8.30am and finish on the Akaroa Domain.