Auckland City Athletic Club, surprise winners of the senior New Zealand road relay title last year will have their work cut out to contain a strong Wellington Scottish team and a rival Auckland team from Wesley in Christchurch on Saturday.
The ACA team came from 12th in 2013 in the Takahe to Akaroa eight lap 76.6km race to beat pre-race favourites and defending champions New Brighton Olympic over the same course last year.
The relays have returned to Christchurch again to recognise and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the iconic relay.
Scottish have a mixture of top middle distance runners through to mountain running exponents and long distance runners. Hamish Carson, national 3000m champion, will combine with national mountain running champion Dougal Thorburn, Australian based Ben Ashkettle, Australian based Japanese runner and winner of the Christchurch marathon in June Hiro Tanimoto, New Zealand mountain running representatives Stephen Day and Tim Hodge, Nick Horspool second in last year’s Auckland marathon, and John Earles who was second in the Wellington road championships.
Six members of the winning ACA team last year have returned, with Ben Moynihan, Jono Jackson, Simon Yarrow, Matt Baxter, Mike Banks and Josh Maisey all running this year. They are without two key players in their success last year Mathew Mildenhall and Andrew Davidson. Harry Linford and Jake Wilkinson have been drafted into the team.
Wesley, after finishing fifth last year have worked on putting together a winning combination. National cross country and road champion Malcolm Hicks heads their line up and he is well supported by Alex Parlane, Luke Hurring, Tony Payne, Will Harris, Peter Meffan, Liam Scopes and Sam Dobson.
Pakuranga, fourth last year have called on national triathlon representatives Ryan Sissons, Cooper Rand and Jay Wallwork to assist national masters cross country champion Jonny McKee, Paul Crowhurst, Steven Langdon, Peter Wheeler and Richard Swan in their quest for the senior crown.
New Brighton Olympic eight times senior champions have fielded Nick Rennie, Dave Ridley, Mark Bailey, Kerry Faass, Oska Inkster-Baynes, Dallas Wichman, Ryan Kiesanowski and Hayden McLaren.
The women’s relay will be an interesting two way battle between winners for the last two years North Harbour Bays and seven times champions University of Canterbury.
The Bays will line up Esther Keown, Annika Pfitzinger, Charlotte Gordon, Leah Stanley, Lydia O’Donnell, Lana Van Hout, Anna Bramley and Lucy Van Dalen.
The University of Canterbury is strengthened with the inclusion of Beijing world athletic championship representatives Angie Petty and Rosa Flanagan. Leading junior woman Gabrielle Gray joins the seniors and the balance is a strong combination of Alex Williams, Angela Whyte, Nicki McFadzien, Rachel Kingsford and masters runner Maggie Chorley, who as Marg McKenzie still holds the masters women’s lap six record.
The Christchurch Avon team of Christopher Dryden, Ieuan van der Peet, Cameron Avery, Sean Eustace, Joey Dwyer and Angus Bailey should retain the junior men’s title.
ACA, the defending junior women’s champions will up against University of Canterbury, Athletics Nelson and Christchurch Avon in the Allandale to Cooptown six lap 40.7km relay.
Wellington Scottish have entered a powerful masters men’s team of Michael Wray, Matthew Dravitzki, Todd Stevens, Joseph Bulbulia, Paul Barwick, Grant McLean, Simon Keller and Andrew Wharton in an attempt to claim the title off Hamilton City Hawks who are led by the impressive national masters road champion Steve Rees Jones. Scottish won the title in 2010 and 2011.
Wellington Scottish will be going for five years in a row in the masters women’s with another solid team of Tricia Sloan, Jackie Mexted, Rachael Cunningham, Mandy Simpson, Lindsay Barwick, Melissa Moon, Jeltsje Keizer and Katie Kemp. Hamilton City Hawks who broke Scottish’s winning streak with victories in 2009 and 2010 have entered Trish Stockman, Bridget Deverell, Katy Dawson, Bridget Ray, Sandra Jensen, Lisa Joblin, Kirsten Milne and Maureen Leonard.
Athletic Nelson, the defending champions and ACA should battle out the master men over 50 relay, while Athletic Nelson should make it four years in a row in the master men over 60 relay which was added to the programme in 2012. Chasing hard will be Auckland University and New Brighton Olympic.
With almost 900 athletes representing 118 teams from 33 clubs, the Road Relays championships are Athletics New Zealand’s largest championship event numerically.
Wellington Scottish, who are favoured to win the overall top club award have entered 11 teams and Wellington Harrier Athletic Club have 10 teams.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent