Around 50 schools and 250 athletes from all over the country as far as Invercargill and Whangarei congregated to the Pukekohe Racetrack yesterday for the Suzuki National Sprint and NZ Schools Duathlon Championships.
The strong head winds may have played a factor in the races, but it didn’t stop the 242 athletes who crossed the line in their individual or team events.
Waikato Diocesan athlete, Hannah Knighton took charge in her event, claiming gold in the females NZ School U19 group followed by school friend and training partner Emily Irvine and Charlotte Carter from Baradene College. Knighton who is also a member of the NZ Junior team travelling to the ITU World Triathlon Final in Rotterdam next month is happy with her performance.
“It was a great event and a good hit out before we leave for Europe next Tuesday,” Knighton said.
It is Knighton’s fourth time competing in the Championships previously placing second in the U16’s each year.
“I really enjoy the sprint duathlon because there’s always a strong group of competitors there. The venue is great, and I have a lot of fun going around the race track.”
The win was a big boost for the 17-year-old who will be competing in the European Junior Cup in preparation for Rotterdam.
Josiah Ney from Gisborne Boys was crowned NZ Schools U19 champion in a sprint race finish against Daniel Whitburn of St Kentigern College. Adam Marting from Palmerston North Boys rounded off the podium in third place.
This year, the turnout of schools from both islands was impressive with some of the furthest schools rewarded with podium finishes.
Tri NZ Age Group Manager, Jen Gregory said, “The high representation of schools at National Champs events is always exciting to see. This environment exposes young people to the huge potential they can have in the sport and this year’s numbers prove just how much interest there is for it in New Zealand.”
Historically, the championships race has been the stepping stone for some of New Zealand’s leading triathletes such as Terenzo Bozzone and two-time Olympian Bevan Docherty.
“It never ceases to amaze me how fast these kids can go and the support that their schools, coaches and clubs provide each year. Equally, it’s great to see parent involvement go from driver to participant when they compete later in the National Champs Age Group race.”
“For all we know, the names we see on this year's trophies could be the worlds future stars in the sport,” she said.
Hayden Wilde (16-19) came home first overall in the male category with a two minute lead over second place getter Trent Thorpe (20-24) and Andrew Llyod (25-29).
Wilde competed in his first duathlon event four years ago in Taupo.
“Back then I’d just purchased my first road bike and tied my shoes in transition, so it's been a big four years from there,” he laughed.
“It was my first time around the Auckland course, and I absolutely enjoyed it. I loved hitting the corners hard on the course and the experience I’ve had at Xterra, and off-road racing definitely helped me on the gravel run.”
The duathlon challenges athletes to a 4.5km run, 20km bike and 2.25km run.
“What I love about this event is not only do you have to smash the first run to set yourself up for the ride, but you still have to give a little more for the brutal run at the end,” he said.
In seven weeks, Wilde leaves for Japan to build more racing experience into his first year of on road triathlon.
Diana Simpson (30-34) stunned the crowd with her first ever appearance in the duathlon event. The long-distance athlete placed first overall in the female category followed by Teresa Adam (25-29) and Megan Blackett (25-29).
View final race results here.