Updated: Aug 9
7 August 2021, Chisholm Links, Dunedin
Event report by Nick Moore
If you ever get a chance to go down to the New Zealand Cross Country Champs as a competitor, supporter, official or whatever, it’s a great day of racing with a lot of the top runners in the country. Here’s how my day went.
Arrived at Chisholm links course on top of the cliffs overlooking St Clair’s Beach just in time to see Claire Kenyon from Owai in the 6k Masters’ Women’s race running very smoothly to contribute to the Auckland Team that took bronze. Claire’s been doing heaps of work building #owaiwomen – and it was great to see her out there doing it on a national stage. Her dad is a keen Track n’ Field enthusiast in the UK and will be thrilled.
Found the Auckland tent. Found race numbers. Met up with Simon Mace from Owai. We warmed up together and had a look around the course. It was a good challenging one – with lots of undulations and a couple of steep energy sapping climbs plus one steep downhill section. Dry underfoot and quite firm. No mud at all.
Lined up at the start. Our race was 8k – so 4 laps. It was a huge field with U20 men, Masters Men 35-49 and Masters 50-64. Over 100 in the field and races within races. Obviously there were the junior men but then there were the Masters grades (35-49) and above. Plus medals were on offer for each 5 year age group – so I was in the 45-49s. AND there were teams prizes too for the best centre / provincial teams. All in all, a commentators nightmare trying to work out who was racing who and what was going on – so Jason Cameron and Hayden Shearman did a great job on the Sky NEXT coverage on Youtube.
Gun goes and it’s very congested. Elbows out jostling for position on the first bend. It’s quite uneven underfoot and foot placement is tricky. Will Anthony (U20) sets a cracking pace from the gun. He means business and the field strings out quite quickly.
In the Masters race, Ian McDonald from Waikato heads off quick. Dan Clendon from Wellington – chief rival in the 45-49 age group is also quick out of the blocks. We’re always close whenever we race. His brother, James, is an Owairaka member and a very fine runner too. Vajin Armstrong, better known as an ultra runner from Canterbury is up ahead too. I sit and wait with Rodwyn Isaacs (Auckland M35s) and a big bunch of the U20 boys. I’ve raced Rodwyn a couple of times and been beaten by him both times. He’s in his first club season running for Pakuranga and is a real talent with lots of development ahead. We pick up Dan Clendon and Vajin on the first lap somewhere. I’m feeling fatigued from a big training block and lots of work stuff. Not good to be feeling like this on lap 1. Ian McDonald is some way ahead. He did the same thing last year so I think he will come back to us. It’s a tough circuit.
I run with Rodwyn and we’re in a bit of a groove. It’s easier now the bunch has thinned out and we’re able to pick a few of the young ones off. As predicted, some of the U20s started too quick and have begun to fade. Cross country is all about strength and stamina – setting a pace that is just sustainable and then pushing to the end.
We catch and pass Ian McDonald at some stage. Rodwyn is several metres ahead now but still in touch and that’s OK. I’m aware that Simon Mace (M40s) is not far behind – we’ve been running close all year which has been really motivating and he’s been in the form of his life. Dwight Grieve the Southlander must be just behind too. He won the event last year when Aucklanders were locked down and not able to travel. And he outkicked me at the road champs last year so I need to keep well clear of him.
Last lap. I’m tiring but there’s lots of support. My wife, Helen, and our kids Rosie and Matthew (a Lightning Bolt) are there watching near the start/ finish giving it heaps – well, Helen is anyway. The kids are a bit embarrassed. All I can think of is how badly I need a rest week. Then I imagine ex club president, Syd Morrow standing there on the side saying “Keep pushing. Keep pushing” as he did at the Auckland Champs. And I think I can hear coach Bazyl watching the live feed saying calmly “Just keep going. Last k coming up.” I’m very happy to get over the final steep bit so we just have the long downhill straight to go. My vision is getting a bit cloudy. Lucky this is the last lap.
One of the U20s is still close and credit to him he’s fresh enough to get me in the sprint to the end but that doesn’t matter. Rodwyn takes the win. I get 2nd in the M35s to 49s, 1st in the M45-49. Very relieved to finish.
A few seconds later, Simon Mace comes in to take 1st in the M40-44. Awesome run from him and a fantastic result for the club with two of us Owairaka athletes taking age group wins. Next, Tim Hitchcock from Wesley who we’ve been racing all season comes in strongly in 9th so our Auckland team are convincing winners over Canterbury in the teams competition with 1st, 2nd, 4th and 9th.
Simon Mace, Aniel Smith, Nick Moore, Tim Hitchcock and Rodwyn Isaacs
The rest of the day was spent sheltering from an Antarctic gale that came in bringing hail and really cold rain. It nearly blew the tents down and soaked the Seniors who were out doing their warm ups. Their race was fantastic to watch. Kerry White from Waikato and Oli Chignell from Otago were classy winners on the day but it was great to see a number of Aucklanders up there at the front too in both races. And fantastic to watch James Marsh (above) from Owairaka running really well in his first Cross Country Nationals in front of his coach Graeme Holden. A really brave run and awesome experience for him in a strong national field.
Including Claire, Simon and Nick’s race
Including senior men and women and James’ race