The SILVA mass start long NOL races at Belair National Park (Adelaide) were noteable by the presence of three new faces at the top of the leader board, in Victor Manser (elite) Shaun McDonaugh (TAS) and Lanita Steer (VIC) in the juniors.
The courses were excellently set by SA elite Simon Uppill who practically lives on the map, which father Adrian constantly updates. There were several small loops to start with on the flatter, more utilised area before all courses went into the steep hills to the east. The Adelaide – Melbourne train line bisects the map and there was a route choice that allowed runners to run through a long tunnel below it, where Simon had even placed lights for better visibility. Several long route choices legs were broken up with a series of 4 or 5 controls close together. Given that it was a mass start the control descriptions were only on the map, thus simulating a relay situation. This saw quite a few mispunches, even after Simon had warned runners to check codes at the pre-race briefing.
Luckily the organisers had moved the starts forward an hour (to 8.30am) as Adelaide’s renowned summer weather saw a cloudless sky. The first runner home caught the commentators by surprise as it was Victor Manser, a Finnish runner studying for 6 months in Geelong, who had been wisely recruited to the Victorian nuggets team. He stated that he likes the longer events as his fitness is more endurance based. However Victor had a scare close to home, as he left the second last control in the wrong direction and Bryan Keely was close behind. Victor sure displayed a good turn of speed to get to the final control first! Evidently Victor and Bryan had used their speed to move away from a small group on a road section about 80% through the course. However Bryan got bad news that he had mispunched control 3 in the helter skelter of the mass start.
Josh Blatchford (NSW) showed excellent early season fitness and form to finish just 3 minutes behind Victor, with Lachy Dow (ACT) a further 5 minutes back in third. The highly fancied favourite Matt Crane had the misfortune to roll an ankle half way round.
The juniors were on the same course as the elites, and started at the same time. Tasmania Shaun McDonough ran impressively to take the victory in a good time, with Matt Doyle 2nd and Andrew Barnett 3rd. Unfortunately many of the other juniors failed to finish. Henry McNulty, Brodie Nankervis and Ian Lawford all succumbed to the dreaded mispunch, while Ashley Nankervis pulled out with hamstring problems and Oscar McNulty also withdrew early.
The women’s field was very strong, as it included most of the top ten ranked athletes. Grace Crane went out favourite but there were some doubts whether a recent knee injury would flare with the hilly terrain. She took control mid-race and only Jasmine Neve could go with her. Although they took widely different route choices on the returning long leg they emerged together at the next control with Grace holding a narrow advantage. Grace continued to navigate well despite the pressure and ran up the finish shute a mere 13 seconds ahead of Jasmine. The fact that both looked really fit and healthy at the end, despite the warm temperature, augurs well for future events. Aislinn Prendergast was only 2 minutes back in third and local runner Lauren Gillis, after early mistakes, stormed through the field for an impressive 4th.
The junior girls certainly stood up today, with all completing the rugged course and only one mispunch. Lanita Steer (VIC) broke through for her first NOL victory, and her time was just 10 minutes behind that of Grace Crane. Heather Muir (Qld) had to settle for 2nd but she is showing fantastic consistency to always be at the pointy end. Jacqui Doyle(ACT) was well pleased with her 3rd position.
Thanks to Simon, Alison Radford (controller), Frank Tomas (organiser) and the Wallaringa club for all their efforts in putting the event on.
Also many thanks to SILVA who are generously providing prizes for all 13 events in the SILVA NOL program. Additionally the overall elite winners will each receive runner headlamps valued at $599 each.
Elite men Elite women
98.05 Victor Manser (VIC) 85.47 Grace Crane (TAS)
101.41 Josh Blatchford (NSW) 85.54 Jasmine Neve (VIC)
106.08 Lachy Dow (ACT) 88.03 Aislinn Prendergast (VIC)
Teams competition – VIC, then NSW VIC, SA
Junior men Junior women
108.45 Shaun McDonough (TAS) 96.17 Lanita Steer (VIC)
118.10 Matt Doyle (VIC) 100.10 Heather Muir (QLD)
120.48 Andrew Barnett (ACT) 115.11 Jacqui Doyle (ACT)