The NSW Long Course Championships definitely provided tough racing and made the winners earn their state titles. The spur-gully terrain featured areas of undergrowth which at times left competitors cursing but also had patches of interesting rock features and some enjoyable, technical gold mining area. The weather looked bleak in the morning but as most runners headed for the start the sun came out and only intermittent showers were experienced.
The M21A course looked daunting at 14.5Km with 645m climb, and the women had 9.9Km with 440m climb. The men’s favourite was Dave Shepherd who was a late entrant, only deciding to run the previous day, although Jo Allison also looked good to win her second NSW title in two days. Shepherd took an early lead overcoming early hiccups including dropping two minutes to Eric Morris on the long eighth leg. He did not feel good though and when he pulled out at the eleventh control, Andy Hogg assumed the lead. It was however to be short-lived with Rob Preston taking 42 seconds out of him along with the race lead at the 12th. Although Hogg tried gallantly over the final stages Preston held on to the finish to take the title and State Champion by 8 seconds, denying Hogg his first state title since he won in WA in 1999. Victorian Blair Trewin took the small step on the podium, 1:47 adrift of Hogg.
Briohny Davey took her first women’s title, set-up by a strong, consistent run. Briohny has been improving steadily over the last few years and although her victory wasn’t a surprise it was something of an upset. The two main challengers, favourite Jo Allison and Anna Quayle both dropped out of contention on the second control. Quayle simply missed the control during a concentration lapse, realising later in the course but deciding to press on without it. Allison made a large error here, she may have been able to fight back but 6 mins lost at number 5 put an end to that. She did however take second ahead of Mace Neve.
In the junior classes Newcastle flyer Joshua Roberts had a comfortable 7 minute victory over ACT’s Geoff Stacey in M18A and Heather Harding squeezed out Nadine Cejka by 6 seconds in W18A. The race also marked the return of Julian Dent. Running unofficially on the M20A course Julian ran under 6 min/Km which, had he kept the pace, would have given him a clear victory in M21. This shows some great comeback form before the Australian Long Course Championships in Perth in October.