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New Zealand selects team for World Mountain Running Champs in Innsbruck-Stubai

Four years since winning his last mountain title Andy Good of Canterbury came out on top after traversing Mount Maunganui in hot conditions to win the national mountain running title. Sarah Douglas retained the women’s title and ruled supreme for a second year, reports Jack Snedden. 

This year’s course was unique to previous others, being held in the city to help grow the sport and increase popularity. However, despite these changes the course was just as tough with the hot conditions proving too much for some.

In the men’s senior race, runner up from last year, Toby Batchelor, of Pakuranga set the early pace from Michael Sutton of Tauranga, Good and Wellington’s Niam Macdonald. Mid way through the 11.6km up and down 710m climb Good was in control leading Sutton and Batchelor and placings remained the same to the finish. Good clocked in at 49:39, a minute ahead of Sutton with Batchelor recording 52:34. Good was proud of his achievement, “it would have been the hardest technical race that I’ve ever come out on in front of so I’m proud right now. It was damn hot to be honest, the first two climbs we were just back and forth amongst the three of us.”

Sarah Douglas retained the women’s title over the same course in 59:11 from Maia Flint of Wellington who ran 60:31, Kerry White of Wellington 60:57 and Andrea Peat of Wellington 65:28.

Douglas said that she didn’t know going into the race how she would go, “I prefer the all up hill, but today I felt pretty strong on the downhill. I probably went a bit harder on the first lap than I intended on doing, but I felt really good so I decided just to roll with it and hope that I would hang on okay.”

With the scenic Mount Maunganui as the backdrop for the mountain running championships, and the sun beating down, the weather played a key role in race outcomes. “The heat played a major factor today and with the up down format makes it really interesting being able to run hard up-hill after banging your head on the downhill makes it a really tactical race,” said Sarah Douglas.

In the shorter and faster junior races, Bella Earl took the junior women’s title, adding another national title following a triumph in the national Under 18 cross country won in 2021. The 17 year old from Owairaka led all the way tackling the 410m uphill with plenty of energy to hold a 10 second lead.

With the experience gained from competing at the recent world cross country championships in Australia Earl flew down the downhill to compete the 6.6km in 33:56. Defending champion Siena Mackley of Queenstown rallied on the descent but was unable to make ground on Earl and finished a minute and a half behind in second. Stella Hammond of Oratia was third in 36:26 and Boh Ritchie of Hamilton fourth in 38:01. Earl found it really hard but enjoyable, “it was hard on the up-hill but fun and there were such good views on the way,” she said.

Benjamin Rickerby of Auckland City Athletics successfully defended his junior men’s title, coming from behind to win the 6.6km up and down in 28:48. Jack Snedden of Oratia followed in 30:10, with early leader Josh Jordan of Trentham third in 30:54 ahead of Hamilton’s Louie Endres 31:06. Rickerby was content to settle at the rear of a leading group of four led by Jordan, Snedden and Endres. “I started out with the leading group of four and then used the technical downhill pass them on the first loop. I’m over the moon, two times national champ now,” Rickerby added.

Matthew Parsonage of Lake City Rotorua was the first master in 29:56 from compatriot Carl Fischer 31:30.

Athletics NZ are also sending a strong 12 person team to the World Mountain Champs to be held in Austria in June 6-10. The team contains 8 runners from Thailand’s champs last year.

*Pic: The leaders start the first climb, Tauranga Ramblers