Halswell Quarry, Christchurch – 23 July 2011
Matt Smith is his only cross country appearance this winter was in stunning form collecting the New Zealand senior 12km cross country title at the Halswell Quarry Reserve on Saturday.
The 36 year old Canterbury bank manager exerted pressure on the up hills on each of the six circuits of the old quarry site to make a break early on in the race. Smith was able to keep Auckland champion Stephen Lett at bay over the second half and went on to win by five seconds. Andrew Davidson, who won the title on the same course two years ago, was third in 38m 5s, with Jonathan Jackson of Auckland fourth.
Smith, former national half marathon and 5000m track champion, said that he was really pleased to win.
“I really like to support the championships when they are in Christchurch. I haven’t run cross country for quite a long time, but I used to be decent at it, so it seemed like there were some good runners around this year so I wanted to test myself against them,” said Smith.
"I was surprised that I seemed stronger on the hills cause I thought I would be better on the downhills, but I got into a rhythm and went with it,” he added.
Smith, who represented Great Britain at the world cross country championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with his best placing of 60 in Dublin in 2002 only decided to target the championships 12 weeks ago after being married earlier this year and returning from a honeymoon in South America.
Lett said that Smith was just too strong.
“He was real good on the uphill and I got a bit back on the downhill, but it was frustrating as there was six seconds between us for most of the race and I couldn’t quite close it. I have had a really good season and hopefully I can go one better next year,” said Lett.
Davidson said that he was very happy with his third placing.
“Two years ago I won the North Island and Canterbury champs and I was expecting to win, it was mine to lose. But this year I haven’t had a good performance and I wanted to turn the tide on the other guys who have beaten me,” said Davidson.
Otago won the teams title on a count back from Auckland with just a point to Wellington in third. Otago last won in 1958.
Danielle Trevis of Auckland in her first year as a senior added the senior women’s title to the national senior road and 10,000m track titles she has won in the last nine months. Canterbury local Nicki McFadzien ensured a fast pace from the start and the pair were soon well clear of the rest of the field.
Trevis forced the pace mid way and moved into a comfortable lead to win by 32 seconds over McFadzien in 28m 20s. Caroline Mellsop of Wellington was third with Auckland’s Alice Mason fourth.
Trevis said the cross country title was definitely the goal.
“I knew it was going to be hard. We went out really fast and it was sort of surprising that I had to hang on a bit and even when I took the lead I wasn’t feeling exactly amazing. It’s really cold out there and I felt it in my lungs,” said Trevis.
McFadzien said that she went out fast to give herself a show of winning.
“If I had taken the first lap too slow all of them would have got rid of me, so I had to put the pressure on from the start. Danielle caught me on the part where my legs had just gone dead, so she did very well and she was too good in the end – she did great,” said McFadzien.
Auckland runners filled the first five placings in the M19 championship. Declan Wilson was all class winning the junior title covering the 8km in 25m. Cameron Graves matched strides with Wilson over the first half of the race but was unable to maintain the cracking pace set by Wilson on the up hill, and had to settle for runner up for the second year in a row.
Wilson said that Graves was the bench mark for him going into the race.
“My coach said the stay with Cam, stick with him and if he is weakening go for the gap and then just run your own race,” he said.
Graves said that the magic was missing for him.
“Declan put in a bit of a buster up the hill, I was going to go with him but I couldn’t, my legs didn’t feel like it today,” he said.
Talented Waikato triathlete Mikayla Nielsen showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the W19 field winning as she liked running in bare feet. Nielsen was home in 21m 16s, 1m 20s ahead of Auckland’s Annika Pfitzinger.
Nielsen said that she did not feel comfortable during the race.
“It was pretty cold – I made my move down the long hill, I’ve got long legs which is probably my strength, and I just kept going.
“It was good to have the support around the course when you are way out front and not having anybody else around,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen will be competing in the world triathlon championships in Beijing in September.
Phil Costley of Tasman was the best of the master men while Gabrielle O’Rourke of Wellington led in the master women and then turned round and finished fifth in the senior women’s race.
Costley said that he has been doing some good training in Nelson.
“I was crook last week, and this is my first run in four or five days, so I was thinking I was the only way I was going to win it was on reputation. But they let me go thinking I was in top form but at the end of the day I could only breath sort of half into my lungs and if I went any further it would have – I would have been coming up all sorts of colours,” said Costley.
O’Rourke said that she never took anyone for granted.
“I was a bit worried about Tracy, but I went out hard to try and break them early, and Then I could just relax – it worked thank goodness. It’s nice to get another win after last year,” said O’Rourke.
Kara Macdermid of Feilding and Mike Lowe of Tasman won the 16 titles. Lowe said that his whole year’s programme has been based around winning the M16 title.
He attributes his huge improvement in the last 12 months to his coach Greg Lautenslager.
“This really the race I wanted to win,” he said.
Macdermid said that it was a hard run throughout.
“It hurt, I tried to sit and go easy for the first kilometre and then go harder after that,” she said.