The weekend began with the annual Australian Sports Commission Galaxy Sprint. The women’s race was a close affair with the lead changing seven times during the race as Hanny Allston, Grace Elson and Anna Quayle all battled for the upper hand. Allston managed to take 16 and 20 seconds out of Elson and Quayle respectively on the 9th leg and pulled away to a 9 second victory over fellow Tasmanian Forester Elson with Quayle a further 3 seconds back. Shannon Jones turned heads with her fourth placing and whispers began to circulate of a possible WOC nomination. Queenslander Anna Sheldon took fifth and Danielle Winslow sixth.
In his last weekend in Australia David Schneider took victory by seven seconds over Julian Dent. NSW Ultimax Stinger Dent started strongly and was 17 seconds up by the 9th control but could not maintain the high tempo and as he faded Schneider’s superior strength came to fore as he took the lead at the 13th and did not relinquish it. Current Australian Sprint Champion, Danish import Rune Olsen, was third after a close battle with veterans Grant Bluett and Eric Morris. Southern Arrow Kerrin Rattray was looking good for third until a costly error on the short ninth leg robbed him of a podium finish.
The sweltering conditions of Saturday afternoon added another element to the middle distance and fatigue certainly contributed to some runners’ downfall. Julian Dent however virtually led from start to finish as he turned the tables on David Schneider to win the second race of the day. Only for a fleeting moment at the sixth control was Schneider able to edge in front but it was brought to an end when he lost 45 seconds on the very next control. Grant Bluett seized the opportunity to take second, ahead of Schneider. Dave Meyer managed to turn a four second deficit at the last control into a 2 second victory over fellow NSW Ultimax Stinger Eric Morris for fourth place. Bruce Arthur rounded out the top six.
Anna Quayle won the women’s race by a huge 5 ½ minute margin. Like Dent, she led for the majority of the race. Hanny Allston momentarily had the lead but lost all hope of a good result after 2 four minute errors cost her dearly. Quayle’s impressive results reinforced calls for her make herself available for the Australian team. (Quayle – formerly Anna Danielsson – is Swedish and is married to Australian WOC representative Tom Quayle). Victorian Jasmine Neve moved ahead of Grace Elson at the tricky 13th to take second. SA’s Vannessa Round took fourth with a good run to beat Anna Sheldon in fifth and Felicity Brown in sixth.
The earlier starts on Sunday morning gave the weary competitors some respite from the heat but it didn’t prevent some of the more fancied runners from falling out of contention. Hanny Allston held a commanding six minute lead heading into the second last control, only 400m from the finish. Here, however, she punched the wrong control and subsequently did not finish, not realising until she had completed the course. The other victor from yesterday’s women’s races also failed to finish. Anna Quayle, looking good early on, suffered a nasty injury to her knee that required stitches. The injury doesn’t look serious enough to keep her out of Easter but it will hamper her preparations. Grace Elson ran a fine race to take victory from Danielle Winslow. Elson was slightly in front of Winslow for the entire course and the end margin was just 17 seconds. Briohny Davey ran a consistent race to make her through the field to finish in third. Vanessa Round certainly has the JWOC selectors’ attention after another fourth placing and Miss Consistency Anna Sheldon was again fifth. Orla Murray was sixth.
David Schneider was looking good to win his last race Australia until a 45 second error at the 14th control allowed Julian Dent to pass him and go on to take another race win. Most impressive was Dent’s time on the 19th leg where he took a minute out of his closest competitor. Dave Meyer had his best NOL result to date to come in third in front of Eric Morris who lost a contact lens on the way to the first control. Early leader, Canberra Cockatoo Grant Bluett was fifth and NSW Ultimax Stinger Rob Preston sixth.
The NSW Ultimax Stingers now have a seven point lead in the National League over the Canberra Cockatoos with the Tasmanian Forester in third. Julian Dent sits atop the men’s individual standings with defending champion Grant Bluett the next Aussie. David Schneider will take no further part in the series. Grace Elson leads the women in front of Anna Sheldon and Briohny Davey.
Attention now turns to the Easter carnival where people will not only be running for their states but also possible WOC berths. The splits from the weekend are able to be viewed at winsplits online via the links below, note that the 7th control did not registered in NOL 3 and therefore the 7th leg time is both legs 7 and 8, each one there after is then out by one.