Grace Crane completed a clean sweep of national titles at today’s Australian Long Distance Championships near St. Helens, while Tim Robertson claimed the men’s title for New Zealand.
Crane took the lead early in the course and was never seriously threatened as she stretched her lead to six minutes by the end of the race, despite wobbling (as most did) in the technical mining terrain near the end of the course. She was, however, unable to claim the National League title, as Rachel Effeney took the second place she needed to make Crane’s result irrelevant to the final pointscore. Kathryn Preston completed the placings, eight minutes behind, after Crane caught her about two-thirds of the way through the race.
Matt Crane looked like he might make it a family double, as had happened the previous weekend. He led, although not by much, for almost all of the race, but when he stumbled it was in a big way – four minutes at 27, the third-last control, which dropped him right out of the placings. That opened the way for Tim Robertson, the young New Zealander who put together a consistent race and was ready to pounce when the opportunity opened. Rob Preston was one-and-a-half minutes behind to win the resident championship, just ahead of Bryan Keely who lost his chance when he lost three minutes at the second control.
There were expected wins for the two favourites in the junior classes, although neither had a clean run. Oliver Poland had a patchy first half and was only in fourth place around halfway, but took increasing command over the second half to finish three minutes clear of Brodie Nankervis, as early leader Oscar McNulty dropped away (not helped by an eye injury). Heather Muir survived a three-minute loss in mid-course to finish two clear of fellow Queenslander Lilian Burrill.
Matt Crane, Poland and Muir had secured their individual National League titles well before today. The team events for the senior women and junior men are both still wide open, and will go to whichever team is first in tomorrow’s relay out of the contenders (Queensland and Victoria for the senior women, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria for the junior men).