A close finish is in store in the Australian Schools Championships after the second individual day in the fast terrain of Sandon Forest. Tasmania and the ACT are tied on 40 points going into relays day, with Victoria, today’s leading scorers, four points further back.
Surprises were the order of the day, with three of the four race winners somewhat unexpected (at least to tipping competition entrants!). Jo-Anna Maynard showed her form yesterday in the sprint, but the forest was something of an unknown quantity. It was apparent early on that she was on another very good run, and she took a clear lead when she arrived at the finish. There were still several serious challenges to come; Danielle Goodall lost her chance with an early error, but Winnie Oakhill and Asha Steer both ran consistently well. They were, however, unable to match Maynard’s speed, and had to settle for second and third.
Tommy Hayes jumped to a strong early lead and kept the field at arm’s length for much of the race. The long 12th leg proved to be the decisive one, as he took a low route choice which proved to be suboptimal. The minute or so that option cost him opened the door, and it was Simeon Burrill who was able to go through it; he almost blew it with a slight wobble at the last control, but picked himself up just in time and finished four seconds clear of the New Zealander. Jarrah Day was third, on a day when the top five were covered by barely a minute.
It took a while for the junior girls to settle down, with several promising runs coming to grief on controls in the second half of the course, but Zoe Melhuish eventually posted the time to chase. It seemed unlikely to hold up with the formidable New Zealand team, fillers of the top four places yesterday, still with runners to come, but hold up it did. Jenna Tidswell was the last chance to overhaul her, taking the lead at the first radio, but a 90-second miss at #5 put her just behind the Canberran and it was a gap she was never quite able to close. Briana Steven completed the placings for the New Zealanders.
The one age group where the win was no surprise was the junior boys, where Aston Key reigned supreme. That the margin, just under two minutes, was a good deal smaller than those over the weekend owed something to the simpler terrain, but rather more to a high-standard race in which none of the top six made any significant errors. The Miller brothers from the ACT filled two of the top four, with Patrick second and Tristan fourth, separated by Dante Afnan.
Provisional scores: Tasmania, ACT 40; Victoria 36; Queensland 32; SA 30, NSW 29; WA 17.