The 2012 New Zealand Orienteering Champs has kicked off to a fast start with the sprint race held at Albany’s Kristen College. Competitors were faced by an onslaught of small school buildings mixed with copious gardens and walkways. There were also longer legs for the longer courses between Albany Junior High and Kristen to allow the fastest runners to excel. Over all it was an extremely technical area and the courses set by top elite Thomas Reynolds proved testing.
The Elite Men’s field was hotly contested as expected, with top form making its way from all around New Zealand. Young Tim Roberston (Hutt Valley) hit the ground running to take the win with a time of 14:55 ahead of last year’s champion Toby Scott (Auckland), himself only a first year senior. Tim is proving to be one of New Zealand’s most promising juniors and will head to Slovakia for Junior World Champs in July with high hopes if he can maintain his outstanding form. Scott, 30 seconds back from Roberston, finished a narrow 5 seconds ahead of Christchurch’s Tane Cambridge (Plain and Peninsular) and will be pleased that he is still orienteering well after suffering with some recent injuries. Nick Mead (North West) is showing he is now a runner not to be messed with any longer, achieving his best result to date, also as a first year senior. He claimed 4th place, 8 seconds back from Cambridge, and 11 seconds ahead of the experience Jamie Stewart (Wellington). The elite men’s field is showing good depth with the close times throughout the field.
The tight Elite Women’s race had 17 seconds spanning the top 4 places, with Greta Knarston (Counties Manakau) taking the title with a time of 17:14. Amber Morrison (Hawks Bay) took the early lead, dominating the split times for the first half of the race, but her time suffered after making some mistakes in the later half and she eventually finishing in 8th. Kate Morrison (Hawkes Bay) claimed 2nd place 11 seconds down but a mistake on leg 4 cost her enough time to reverse the deficit to Knarston who was also very clean race accept for one mistake later in the race. Georgia Whilta (Plains and Peninsular) ran a very clean race and squeezed into 3rd place 2 seconds ahead of Imogene Scott (Auckland). Imogene did well to hold her composure after dropping 30 seconds on the first control and is proving to be back on track after spending most of this year injured. The top 5 was rounded off by Angela Simpson (Bay of Plenty) in a time of 18:22, 1:08 off the lead.
Junior grades are getting stronger each year with more school runners taking the step up to the club level. The Men’s 20 grade was won convincingly by Matthew Ogden (North West) who also claimed the fastest time for course 1, ahead all the Elite Men, and showing he is on track for another crack at the Junior World Champs. Fellow Junior World Team mates Nick Hann (Wellington) and Duncan Morrison (Hawkes Bay) picked up 2nd and 3rd respectively. Top Junior Girl Laura Roberston (Hutt Valley) dominated the Women’s 20 grade with a 1:59 lead over Sweden’s Ellinor Tjernlund and 2:02 over official 2nd place Selena Metherall (Plains and Peninsular). Next, after losing some time to mistakes in the latter half of the course, was Cosette Saville (Counties Manakau).
Good performances took the titles in all grades from Men’s and Women’s 10 grade Men’s and Women’s 75. The gruelling New Zealand Long Distance Champs takes place tomorrow north of Parakai and will test a different array of skills to those used in today’s sprint.