Above: Wellington Scottish team, winners of the men's race at the 2015 Road Relay Champs.
Wellington Scottish, eleven times the top club at the New Zealand Road Relay Championships looks set to continue that trend in Rotorua on Saturday.
Scottish will be defending the senior men’s title over the new seven lap 62.5km course that has been mapped out for the first time the championships have been held in the Lake City.
Hamish Carson, back from his European and American campaign and the Rio Olympics is down to anchor the Scottish team home at the Government Gardens. Carson will be solidly supported by Tim Hodge, Rowan Hooper, Sam McCutcheon, Stephen Day, Hiro Tanimoto and Harry Burnard.
Pakuranga, yet to win a senior men’s title, has a mixture of proven road runners and triathletes in their bid to outrun the powerful Scottish combination. Pakuranga’s lineup is Jonny McKee, Peter Wheeler, Trent Thorp, Nick Pannett, Ciaran Faherty, Paul Crowhurst and London and Rio Olympian Ryan Sissons. Auckland City Athletics had the perfect team in 2014, winning in Akaroa has a key runner in Jono Jackson the national cross country champion and he is ably backed by Ben Moynihan, Jake Wilkinson, Josh Maisey, Mike Banks, Daniel Coats and Harry Linford.
New Brighton Olympic, eight times winners, will be using national road champion Daniel Balchin to full effect on one of the longer legs. Also lining up for Brighton will be Nick Rennie, Aidin Askin, Will Sams, Flynn Thompson, Sam Elstob and Oska Inkster-Baynes. New Zealand's latest sub four minute miler Eric Speakman is running for a revitalised Napier and Wesley will also be in the mix with Tom Hunt, Tom Moyes, Andy Stewart, Hayden Shearman, Will Harris, Alex Parlane and Liam Scopes.
The three clubs that have dominated the senior women’s relay for the past seven years will be at it again. University of Canterbury will be defending their title with a line-up that includes Rio Olympian Angie Petty and runner up in the national cross country Rosa Flanagan. Harriet Bush, Natalie Dryden, Grace Fursden, Gabby Gray and Angela Whyte complete a formidable Varsity team. North Harbour Bays winners in Akaroa in 2013 and 2014 have again put together a strong group in Esther Keown, Fiona Love, Katie Wright, Charlotte Gordon, Annika Pfitzinger, Leah Lassche and Ashleigh Williams. Hamilton City Hawks, title winners in 2012 in Upper Moutere have a team that could win on the day again with national 5000m champion Camille Buscomb, third placed at the national cross country championships Nicole Mitchell, Nancy Jiang, Malesa McNearney, Olivia Ritchie, Cecilia Flori and national triathlon representative Elise Salt.
Can Christchurch Avon make it three years in a row in the junior men is the question being asked in Canterbury. After Mitchell Small won the national under 18 road title he declared the next title he was after was the junior road relay title with his Papanui Toc H team. Nick Mouli, Tom Mouli, Henry Idiens, Cam Bartlett, Goitem Gebremedihin and Small will put the Papanui uniform on the line. Avon will however be hard to beat with their composition of Chris Dryden, Latham Fairhall, Joey Dwyer, Matthew Scott, Angus Bailey and runner up in the junior road championship Sean Eustace. Pakuranga, yet to win a junior crown will make a bold showing with Trent Dodds, Cameron Low, Ryan Church, Lachlan Haitana, Theo Quax and Andrew Catley in the six lap 45.2km event. Auckland City Athletics, winners in Hunua in 2011 will be right in there again with a lineup of James Uhlenberg, Matthew Manning, Alex Hull, Jacob Holmes, George Cory-Wright and Liam Barry. Other teams to watch, making it an interesting race are Wesley with Guy Kilmister and Conal Wilson, Hamilton City Hawks with Isaiah Priddey and Wellington Harriers with Max Karamanolis.
Athletic Nelson are the defending champions in the junior woman and have entered Bridie Edwards, Beth Versey, Hunta Sutherland, Charlotte Tucker, Eloise Beattie and Sophie Smith. ACA who have collected the title six times in the last nine years could well be heading to the top spot on the podium again with Grace Wood, Maiya Christini, Alyssa Bullot, Georgia Clode, Claire Rees and Sophie Atkinson. Hamilton City Hawks winners back in 2000 have an ace in Charli Miller who will be ably backed by Grace Ritchie, Rose Dillon, Aimee Ferguson, Sam Corbett and Monique MacDonald.
Scottish will be defending the masters men 40 and masters women’s titles. In the men Grant McLean, Paul Barwick, Simon Keller, Joseph Bulbulia, Todd Stevens, Michael Wray and Andrew Wharton will be lining up. Their competition will come from ACA who have a proven set of veterans in Simon Yarrow, Chris Robb, Julian Ng, Richard Conyngham, Matt Murphy, Rick Tombling and Sasha Daniels. Wellington Harriers have Dan Clendon and Dan Nixon.
Scottish masters women team of Lindsay Barwick, Lyn Clark, Anne Hare, Betty Harp, Jackie Mexted, Michele Allison and Katie Kemp should have no trouble in making it six years in a row. Hamilton City Hawks and Lake City should fill the next two places on the podium.
Scottish also have the team to beat in the masters men 50 plus. Turning out for the rampant lions’ will be James Turner, Phil Sadgrove, Dave Hatfield, Ross Jamieson, Dave Kettles, John Plimmer and Peter Stevens. ACA should finish second.
After winning the masters men 60 plus each year since the grade’s inception in 2012 Athletic Nelson is missing leaving the way clear for home town Club Lake City with Phil Gulbransen, Trevor Ogilvie, Ray Hewlett, Ray Lichtwark, Campbell Horn and Colin Earwaker to triumph ahead of Auckland University.
A total of 111 teams, including four walking teams, comprising 734 competitors have entered.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent