The Canberra Cockatoos had a successful weekend at last week’s National Orienteering League rounds in St. Helens, Tasmania. They were particularly successful in the long distance on Sunday, with convincing wins by Jo Allison and Matt Crane, and have closed the gap in the senior men’s competition to seven points. The Victorian Nuggets still lead, as they do in the senior women’s event by a much larger margin.
The long distance took place at Transit Flat, where the World Cup long distance took place last year. The vital statistics of the courses were similar but this was a tougher challenge, with more in the big hills, and wet fallen timber adding an extra element of difficulty, leading to winning times being well above those of the best Australians in the 2015 race. Allison was up to the challenge, leading for most of the way, and once Aislinn Prendergast’s challenge dropped away with mistakes in the second half, a small margin turned into a double-digit one. Natasha Key edged Prendergast out for second. Crane was not quite as dominant, but still pulled away to a five-minute win after a close battle with Simon Uppill in the first half, with a fast-finishing Leon Keely just catching Uppill for second.
Uppill’s win had come the previous day, in a complex middle distance in the mining terrain and low visibility of the Golden Fleece. Such terrain brought his skills to the fore as he edged out Brodie Nankervis on his home turf. Key might not have seemed so suited to the terrain, but was the one standing at the top of the results table after a fluctuating contest in which she, Anna Sheldon, Bridget Anderson and Allison were separated by under three minutes.
The junior fields were thin, but with quality at the front end as Aston Key won both races comfortably. In the junior women’s, Rachel Allen had a win on Saturday with Anna Dowling 2nd and Zoe Dowling 3rd, but Zoe turned the tables on Sunday finishing 1st, with Anna Dowling 2nd and Rosie Dalheim 3rd. The Tassie Foresters edged out to a four-point lead over the Nuggets in that competition.
Uppill and Key lead the senior individual standings. Uppill has a nine-point lead over Leon Keely, and they will probably fight out the title along with Matt Crane. Key’s lead is a more commanding 27 points, but Allison only has six scores so far and could challenge if she runs well during the Australian Championships week. Matt Doyle and Patrick Jaffe, neither of whom contested the weekend, are setting the junior men’s pace, whilst only 25 points separate the top five junior women.