Saturday, April 13, 2024

Batchelor leads home Kiwis at mountain running champs

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The New Zealand men’s uphill-only mountain running team, left to right, Michael Sutton, Toby Batchelor and Niam Macdonald.  Photo Shaun Cantwell

Pakuranga Athletic Club’s Toby Batchelor was the leading Kiwi performer on an attritional day one of action at the 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria.

Tackling a brutally tough uphill-only mountain race comprising 1020m of elevation over 7.1km distance in hot conditions was a huge ask, but Batchelor executed a run he can be proud of finishing as lead Kiwi in 54th (48:05).

Niam Macdonald (Wellington Scottish) was the second New Zealand finisher in 70th in 49:40 with national steeplechase champion Michael Sutton (Athletics Tauranga) crossing the line in 87th (51:34). New Zealand placed 21st in a competitive team competition with 211pts. Kenya secured team gold.

At the head of the field, the East African athletes dominated individually with Kenyan Patrick Kipngeno successfully negotiating the gruelling vertical mountain challenge to strike gold by a margin of more than a minute-and-a-half in 40:18.

Batchelor, who finished 40th and lead Kiwi in the men’s uphill race at the 2022 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand, said: “The vertical race was tough as always. That last 500m was about 30 per cent (gradient) and it really felt that ,” Batchelor said.

“I wanted to start conservatively and maybe paid for a few spots. I had a bit in the tank at the end, and I’m proud of the result.”

Teenager Maia Flint enjoyed a memorable New Zealand debut by finishing lead Kiwi in 68th in the women’s uphill mountain race. The VUW Athletics athlete stopped the clock in 1:00:42 to finish two places and four seconds clear of women’s team skipper Sarah Douglas (Queenstown) who was making her fifth appearance at a World Mountain Running Championships.

Kate Morrison (Sumner AC) claimed 72nd (1:01:30) with Sabrina Edwards (Lake City) the fourth Kiwi home in 76th (1:02:29). The New Zealand women finished 20th in the team competition with a cumulative total of 210pts.

Flint, 19, said: “It was so hard out there, but I’m stoked. This was my first World Champs and I didn’t really know what to expect. But standing on that start line, it’s so amazing to be surrounded by all those different countries. The hill, far out, it was steep. I’ve never done anything quite like that before, but I’m super proud of myself getting across the line the way that I did.”

Home favourite Andrea Mayr of Austria claimed a popular seventh uphill-only World Mountain Running title, completing the picturesque but energy-sapping climb in 48:14.

Day two of the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships will feature the men’s and women’s short course races over 45.2km which start at 7pm (NZ time) [on Thursday, June 8].

Four Kiwi women take to the start line led by Andorra-based Kiwi Caitlin Fielder who will be joined by her Athletics Nelson club-mate Amelia Horne. New Zealand trail running champion Katie Morgan (Athletics Timaru) also competes with Jessica Campbell of Sumner completing the four-strong team.

The sole male Kiwi representative is Dwight Grieve (Fiordland).

  • For live results go here
  • There will be a livestream of the event via the 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships see more here and via their Facebook page

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