Draw a line across the country near Taupo and you’ll find the best intermediate-aged multisport athletes in New Zealand living on the southern side.
Three Gisborne athletes and a Palmerston North defending champion took home the spoils from the NZCT AIMS Games multisport after a thrilling day of racing at McLaren’s Falls Park near Tauranga.
Gisborne Intermediate provided two titles, with Tom Van Kregten romping home in the Year 7 boys and Holly Williams winning a sprint for the Year 8 girls crown, while Le’sharn Anderson (Ilminster Intermediate) won an intriguing battle in the Year 7 girls.
It was Palmerston North Normal’s Adam Francis who etched his name in the record books, however, winning the Year 8 boys’ title 12 months after winning the Year 7 crown, and combining with schoolmates Jamie Dennis and Christina Leong to win the school relay.
“That was a lot tougher this year,” Francis gasped, minutes after crossing the line with a 36sec margin over Angus Riordan (Aquinas College). “The guys behind me were pushing so hard and it was so tricky to stay in front so I tried to smash the bike as hard as I could.”
Francis had to adjust his tactics this year, with organisers swapping the kayak leg from first to last, with running leading off this year and mountain biking in the middle.
“I’ve done a lot more kayaking this year because I knew it was going to come down to that.”
He wasn’t the only one.
Van Kregten, after finishing 57th in the cross country on Sunday, knew he had to rely on his mountain bike skills to get through, especially with Year 7 cross country boys’ winner Zane Powell (Somerville Intermediate) in the field.
“He was quite far out in front at the start on the run but I had him in sight,” Van Kregten said. “I just knew I had to go hard in the mountain bike to get him – I ride every day and it’s probably my best leg.”
Powell knew exactly what that tactic was going to be but couldn’t match his Gisborne rival.
“My legs were pretty sore after the cross country but my aim was to go out pretty hard and get as big a lead as I could.”
Anderson took a tactical approach, opting to walk some of the steeper downhills in the Year 7 girls’ race.
“Just at the last hill, I fell over my handlebars on the practice run so I was a bit scared to ride down it and just took it easy,” she said.
That allowed hard-pedaling Mount Maunganui athlete Emma Lord to come through, although after a great tussle in the kayak, Anderson eventually snuck home to win by 9secs.
Two of the gutsiest efforts of the day also came in the Year 7 girls race, where Tauranga Intermediate’s Emily Pilbrow tripped just metros off the start line. Bleeding heavily from a gash in her knee and sobbing at various points as the pain overwhelmed her, she nevertheless battled gamely on, picking her way through the field from dead-last to eventually finish an extraordinary third, just 1min 33secs behind Anderson.
A spot behind her in fourth, Kelsie Teneti from Ilminster Intermediate had similar trouble on the mountain bike leg, when she crashed at the bottom of the final downhill and completely buckled her back wheel. Instead of stopping, Teneti slung the bike over her shoulder and ran to transition.
Williams, meanwhile, is like Van Kregten a member of the Waikanae surf lifesaving club where they’re coached by ironman legend Cory Hutchings.
She had enough fitness to hold off defending champion Case Mastny-Jensen in the Year 8 decider.
” I had an advantage doing the run first, because I knew she was a really good kayaker and mountain biker,” Williams, who was second last year, said. “I used the run to get ahead a bit and then tried my best to maintain it.”
Mastny-Jensen took a break from netball duties to chase another title but settled for silver instead.
“I’m stronger in the kayak, not the run, but Holly’s really good at running,” she said. “I was just trying to keep in that front pack at the start, so I didn’t get dropped off in the mountain bike. I love the downhill on this course but the uphills wasn’t much fun.”
Year 7 boys: Tom Van Kregten (Gisborne Intermediate) 30.13 1, Zane Powell (Somerville Intermediate) 31.56 2, Charlie Tattersfield (Gisborne Intermediate) 32.22 3.
Year 7 girls: Le’sharn Anderson (Ilminster Intermediate) 34.31 1, Emma Lord (Mt Maunganui Intermediate) 34.39 2, Emily Pilbrow (Tauranga Intermediate) 36.04 3.
Year 8 boys: Adam Francis (Palmerston North Normal) 29.06 1, Angus Riordan (Aquinas College) 29.42 2, Baxter Kirk ((Tauranga Intermediate) 29.53 3.
Year 8 girls: Holly Williams (Gisborne Intermediate) 32.16 1, Case Mastny-Jensen (Taupo Intermediate) 32.22 2, Amber Lafferty (Taupo Intermediate) 34.58 3.