Published: Jun 25, 2012 02:06:59 PM Updated: Jul 16, 2012 10:30:54 AM
25 June 2012
115th NSW Cross Country a Classic
The 115th NSW open men’s Cross Country Championship was one of the best in the long history of the event. The athletes and race tactics were top quality and made for an interesting race with Ranwick Botany’s Jeff Hunt taking home the gold medal.
Hunt’s coach Ken Green has dominated the men’s race over the last decade. He has coached five different athletes to win 11 of the last 13 races.
The race brought together three strong contenders, three-time winner Russell Dessaix-Chin (Sydney Uni), London bound Olympian Jeff Hunt and steeplechaser James Nipperess (Sydney Uni). From the gun a group of six moved free of the pack but there was a surprise when Dessaix-Chin opened up a big lead before being caught by Nipperess and Hunt.
”I was also disappointed with my impatience at 5km when I had a crack at the win,” Dessaix-Chin said.
“It was way too early. I should have known better, having run on this course for more than 20 years now, and been a winner three times previously.”
On the last lap, the sun had disappeared and there was a distinctive drop in temperature, however the race heated up as Nipperess seized the lead.
“I surged hard coming off the top of the steep back hill on the last lap and gapped the Huntsman a bit, but he was too strong and clawed me back in,” Nipperess said.
Hunt added: “Nipper had about 30m on me at the bottom of the winding downhill run, and I just told myself to make myself hurt for five minutes. I thought if I could make myself run as hard as possible over that last five minutes, I would be able to run away from him.
“It was a tough race, especially over the last lap. Nipper really ran very well and I had to dig very deep over the final 2km to get the win. We ran the 10th to 11th km so quickly that you'd swear we were finishing at the bridge. I have never closed so hard over that last 2km.”
Hunt, who took the lead on the last rise before the finish, pushed on to win by 13 seconds in 38:42.
I was pleased with the time, my second fastest on the course,” he said.
“It’s only my third race this year and I managed to run my second fastest time here. So I am very pleased with the result. It shows I'm at least in sub-63 half shape, as I ran 38:33 in 2009 before my 62:44 half debut, and everything is progressing on an upward curve towards London.
“There is no truth to the rumour that Nipperess had to give me the win to keep my confidence up for London, but it was a funny rumour. He'd never sacrifice a win, especially over me. I am an old boy compared to him.”
However Nipperess who finished second in 38:55, was pleased for Hunt, his training partner.
“He's obviously in great shape heading into his first Olympic marathon, a testament to the hard training we've been putting in under Ken Green, and I wish him all the best.”
“I did my best out there, ran 17 seconds quicker than last year so I'm happy with my fitness level going into the short course and the national cross. I think the effort by all the boys today showed that NSW are going to have a very strong team to take on the Victorians at national cross.”
Dessaix-Chin was third in 39:48.
"I was happy with third in a race that included the likes of Jeff and Nipper,” he said.
“It was a good last hit out before the Gold Coast Half next week."
Sydney’s University’s tremendous winter season continued with an easy win in the teams event. With places 2nd, 3rd, 5th (Hugh Williams) and 7th (Jack Colveavy), they easily won with a total of 17 points, ahead of Randwick Botany 40 points and Mingara 43 points.
Sydney Uni’s win was the third for the year following their team wins at the Novice Championship and Cross Country Relays, however Hunt sounded a warning for the next winter running event, the road relays.
“For the Sydney University boys, the Randwick Botany Harriers road relay train is coming, so be ready - it's gonna be a cracker.”
The women’s championship was a tremendous race, but rather different than the men’s event. A lead pack of five was quickly broken up by World Juniors cross country representative Celia Sullohern (Macquarie Hunter) who ran away with the race in a good time of 30:19, a second faster than Milly Clark (Sydney Uni) clocked to win the 2011 title. Clark, who has just returned from America where she was chasing Olympic selection in the steeplechase, held on for second in 31:33, ahead of 1995 race champion, Lorraine Hince (Kembla Joggers) in 31:36.
`` It was such a lovely day out in the sun,’’ Sullohern said. ``Because it was the first time I had competed in open cross country and my first race over 8km, I wanted to ease into the race and stay comfortable on the first lap. I was aware of the toll this course can take on your legs if you push too hard early. Luckily I felt really good coming off the first major hill and was able to raise the intensity a bit in the second lap to finish strongly.
``Mid-race I was surprised to feel very relaxed and strong. It was great racing with the U20 men as I had people to chase the entire way.
``I always love racing on this course despite the gruelling hills. We were so lucky to have a relatively dry course which made it easier to cruise the downhills without slipping. True to form, the whole event was well organised and had that special country feel to it.’’
Clark said she found this year’s championship particularly challenging.
``I am coming off some down time and have only really started getting into my winter season after being away in the states for a month,” she said.
“I definitely struggled on lap two- but I like to think it’s a good struggle and I'll be better for it in the coming months.
“That course is always tough - but oddly enjoyable nonetheless. I like the crowd it draws and I think to be able to get that kind of atmosphere year after year is fantastic.”
Athletics East won its second teams winter title this year, scoring 18 points with four athletes in the top-6, beating Sutherland with 34 points, just ahead of Mingara on 36 points.
In the middle of winter the popular South Coast venue turned on a cloudless for the many NSW runners who made the journey. Willandra, owned by Rod and Jan Gibb, was hosting its 11th consecutive championsips.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Men’s race L. t R. Brad Milosevic, James Nipperess, Rhys Jones and Jeff Hunt (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)
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