Speed Skating: Whanganui's Renee Teers top woman at national championships
Whanganui's speed skating contingent came within just two points of winning the prestigious Unity Trophy, which signifies the best overall club, at the NZ Speed Skating Road, Track and Marathon Championships in Timaru on Sunday.
The trophy stayed with the nine time winners and host club South Canterbury, after adding up all the collective results from the championships, which ran from December 31 to January 5.
Spokesman Ken Smith said Wanganui Speed Skating coach Gary Clark could be forgiven if he was frustrated man after not achieving the goal of winning the coveted trophy, after his group had led the standings throughout the championships, only to be thwarted by South Canterbury's results on the last day.
"But in reality, there was plenty for him and his team to be proud of," said Smith.
Renee Teers took her November form in the Rivercity Tour to the national stage, as she dominated a fiercely contested Senior Women's grade.
"She started out with wins in the 200m TT (time trial), 500m, 1000m and Open 15km Elimination at Levels Raceway," said Smith.
Teers also claimed bronze in the 10km points race behind Timaru's Charlotte Clarke and Charli Nevin.
Moving to the indoor races at the Southern Trust Events Centre, Teers continued her good form with wins in the 300m TT and the 800m, along with a silver after finishing behind Clarke in the 1500m.
The highlight of her championships was the win in the headline Open 5km event, as Teers faced down the South Canterbury horde of Clarke, Nevin and Roshean O'Conner, who hounded her throughout the race.
"Teers had assistance from Wanganui teammate Melissa White and Valley Inline's Georgia Hurley early in the race, but as the laps wound down Teers found herself alone amongst the Timaru women, who pushed her back to third with three laps remaining," said Smith.
Teers regrouped and fought back to the lead with a lap remaining, getting the win ahead of Clarke and Nevin.
For her efforts, Teers received the Jo Bright Memorial Trophy for the outstanding performance by a female skater at the championships.
"To emphasise her dominance, she then won the 42km Marathon the next day from Timaru's Ella Benson and Nevin," said Smith.
Whanganui's Andrew Jones (ex student), defending champion in many of the Senior Men's events, had a hard time in this year's championships and was unable to recapture his form from 2019.
"He won the Road 1000m title on day one and was always a contender, but could not quite grab another top place on the podium," said Smith.
Timaru's Dale Christofferson and Kaylum McAuley, Dunedin's Mark McCormack and Valley InLine's Hadley Beech shared the other wins between them, "in a sometimes wild and contentious competition".
"However, for the 42km marathon, Jones went away, got his head straight and absolutely annihilated the field over the Levels course with an early breakaway – finishing over a kilometre clear of McCormack and McAuley and only missing the national record by 15 seconds."
Like Teers, another Whanganui skater to turn in a dominant performance was Tazia Parker in the Juvenile Girls grade.
"Parker blitzed the largest field of the championships and was never really challenged in winning all her races," said Smith.
"She also set a new national record in the 3000m."
Gabby Valentine claimed a string of silver medals behind Parker, while another team mate in Keria Brennan got several bronze.
"Newcomer Elilai Paton showed tremendous potential with a few fourth places and will be one to watch in the future."
In the Junior Boys events, Whanganui's Chase Morpeth and Drew Brennan were locked in battle with Nelson's Jamie Manson.
"Brennan won the 5km points race on the road, with Manson taking the rest of the outdoor titles," said Smith.
"Morpeth hit the afterburners on the indoors, winning all his grade events, to tie the overall Junior Boys Championship with Manson."
In the 21km Junior Half Marathon, Manson earned a narrow win from Whanganui's fast finishing Josh Valentine, with Brennan third and Morpeth fourth."
Those three Whanganui skaters combined to win gold in the Junior Boys Road Relay.
In the Masters Men's grade, Paul Cleeve came out blazing with a win in the 200m TT, but had to concede the remaining gold medals to Nelson's Garth Jamison.
"Jamison was on fire and claimed three New Zealand records in his march to his titles, as well as the Male Jo Bright Memorial Trophy," said Smith.
"Cleeve gathered up most of the silvers till a nasty crash on the indoor track slowed him down.
"He strapped himself up to help Jones and debutant Scott Morpeth win the silver in the Men's Team Relay."
Jerome Allen got silver in the 1000m Indoor along with seven bronze medals as he warmed up to represent New Zealand in Roller Hockey in ten days time.
The Masters Women's grade was an all-Whanganui affair with multi-time champion Krystine Davies winning nearly all the events against her club mates on the podium, including setting a new national record in the indoor 3000m.
"Keeping it in the family her daughter Melissa White, returning to the sport after time away to start a family, kept Davies honest in all the races, and [she] won both the 200m Road TT and the 300m Indoor TT, setting a new Masters record in the process."
Whanganui's Crystal Denbee continued to show increasing pace for a silver and the bulk of the bronze medals.
Debra Smith, with a bronze and Australian-based club member Lynley Crawford rounded out the field.
In Primary Boys events, Whanganui's Hadleigh Smith was untouchable, easily outpacing all his rivals in a clean sweep of all his races.
"A smart racer, Smith will enjoy moving into the Juvenile Grade next year for more racing and some tough competition."
Caleb Valentine showed great improvement to win the bronze in most of his races.
In the Primary Girls, newcomer Eden Wason was on a constant improvement and grabbed a bronze in the 1500m on the road.
The following Whanganui skaters were selected for the NZ Oceania Team of 2020:
Andrew Jones, Renee Teers, Chase Morpeth, Drew Brennan, Josh Valentine, Tazia Parker, Paul Cleeve and Crystal Denbee.
The team will be coached by Whanganui's Rebecca Smith (ex student) and Timaru's Bill Begg.
Whanganui Chronicle 10/1/20