The Canberra Cockatoos and Victorian Nuggets won the open classes at the Australian Relays today. Both teams went in as favourites after good individual performances on the two preceding days.
The Canberra men lived up to their favouritism. They opened up a two-minute lead over the nearest state team after Grant Bluett’s first leg, and extended it on each of the next two legs, ending up five minutes clear after Dave Shepherd capped off an excellent weekend with the fastest leg time. There was much more of a contest behind that, with the next four state teams separated by only 30 seconds going into the final leg. Simon Uppill came through to give the Southern Arrows second, while the NSW Stingers were third ahead of two Victorian teams.
In contrast, the women’s event was a close battle. Slightly surprisingly, Victoria came back a couple of minutes behind the lead pack (led by NSW’s Tracy Marsh) on the first leg, and while they recovered somewhat through Kathryn Ewels on the second, they still trailed entering the final leg, where Natasha Key was chasing Briohny Davey. Davey, who missed the previous day with a leg injury, held together better than might have been expected, but was still run down by Key and by Queensland’s Anna Sheldon, who ran an outstanding final leg (not for the first time). The three were separated by less than a minute at the final spectator control, with Key holding it together to take the win for Victoria, with Queensland second and NSW third.
Queensland extended their lead at every change to score by five minutes in W20 over the ACT, but there was more drama in M20, when what was expected to be a comfortable Victorian win was derailed by the Cockatoos, first when Oliver Poland’s outstanding second leg brought them back into contention from ten minutes down, then when Lachlan Dow overturned a 90-second deficit on Max Neve to gain some revenge for the previous day’s result.
The best race in the other classes came in M16, where the first six teams went out on the last leg within a minute, and Oscar McNulty eventually prevailed over Marc Gluskie in a sprint finish by the narrowest possible margin to win another race for Western Australia. W55 was also decided by seconds, with Tasmania narrowly beating Queensland.