The Australian elite Orienteering season commenced on the weekend with the Stromlo Running Festival race in Canberra. A small, but quality field contested the massed start, multi looped race set by Grant McDonald, the Manager for Canberra Cockatoos. Kathryn Ewels (VIC) has carried her great form from 2009 into the new year with a convincing win 4mins5secs in front of ACT’s Mace Neve over the 5.5km course. First year senior Aislinn Prendergast (VIC) followed closely behind Neve and just in front of Jo Allison (ACT).
In the men’s race, current #1 ranked Julian Dent has returned to the top after missing the 2009 AUS champs carnival through injury. Dent has shown good summer form in athletics races and overcame a small mistake on the first control to win in 29mins27secs. A great battle between experienced local athletes Dave Shepherd and Rob Walter resulted in a sprint finish with Walter 2nd in 30mins32secs, 4secs in front of Shepherd. A close pack fought it out for 4th-7th, with Victorian Bryan Keely just outsprinting Ben Rattray (SA) for 4th.
The novice race had 30 participants keen to try orienteering and seeing if they could emulate the form shown by Ewels and Dent. Before attempting the 2.2km course they received great coaching tips from Rob Walter and Jenny Bourne.
The race was part of a training camp for the National Senior Squad. Training sessions included a night orienteering exercise on Bruce Ridge, Sprint orienteering at University of Canberra, and relay training on Sparrow Hill. The final session on Sandhills sent the elites home tired, but certainly more prepared for Easter Twenty10 to be held in Canberra in April.