Thursday, February 22, 2024

Kiwi team all set for world mountain and trail champs

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2022 New Zealand Mountain Running Championship silver medallist Toby Batchelor from Pakuranga.

A nine-strong New Zealand team – including an athlete from Pakuranga – is all set to compete at the inaugural World Mountain Running and Trail Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand (November 3-6).

The new biennial event, which was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed because of the global pandemic, replaces world championships for mountain running and trail running which were previously organised as separate events.

The merger into a combined festival of running has attracted around 1000 athletes and develops the partnership between the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) and the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), with support from World Athletics. The four-day event includes three competition days on Friday to Sunday.

Five Kiwis will compete in the uphill mountain running event on Friday (Nov 4) with experienced New Zealand Mountain Running champion Sarah Douglas (Queenstown AC) leading a three-strong Kiwi women’s contingent. Also competing are New Zealand Mountain Running Championship bronze Kate Morrison (Sumner Running Club) and 21-year-old Eva Pringle (University of Canterbury), who claimed national steeplechase silver in March.

On the men’s side, 2022 New Zealand Mountain Running Championship silver medallist Toby Batchelor (Pakuranga) will tackle the 8.5km distance with 1021m of elevation hoping for a positive showing.

The racing will all be livestreamed. The men’s race with Batchelor starts at 4.15pm Friday, November 4.

National senior men’s steeplechase bronze medallist Michael Sutton (Athletics Tauranga) also competes.

Two-time New Zealand Trail Running champion Weston Hill. Photo Sportshot.

The trail running events take place on Saturday (Nov 5) over the long course (78km) and short course (38km) distance with two-time New Zealand Trail Running champion Weston Hill of Trentham United Harriers entered in the former event. Ryan Carr of Queenstown Athletics is entered in the men’s short course race with versatile New Zealand mountain running silver medallist Jessica Campbell (Sumner) competing in the women’s equivalent.

Climaxing the Kiwi assault in Thailand will be talented New Zealand U20 mountain running champion Benjamin Rickerby (Auckland City Athletics), who is entered in the 6km U20 men’s classic mountain race (uphill and downhill) on Sunday (6 Nov). Douglas also competes in the senior women’s classic mountain race over 10.7km.

Athletics NZ team manager John Bowden said: “Following the event’s Covid-related postponement last year, we are hugely excited that the revamped event will go ahead in Thailand. The team boasts an exciting blend of experienced names and newer talent competing for New Zealand on the international stage for the first time.

Three-time national mountain running champion Sarah Douglas. Photo Neville Britton

“With around 1000 athletes competing, it will a highly competitive global event and I look forward to seeing how the Kiwis perform across three days of intense competition.”

Sarah Douglas, the three-time national mountain running champion, said: “I can’t wait for Thailand. It is going to be played out in an incredible atmosphere and to have the trail running and mountain running champs at the same time is going to be awesome.”

The 38-year-old Queenstown-based athlete, who has competed in three previous editions of the World Mountain Running Championships – placing between 35th and 40th – has a clear goal in mind.

“If I could crack the top 30 in the uphill event I’d be really stoked,” she said.

“It is something I haven’t done yet and would love to do so.”

Weston Hill hopes for a positive showing in the men’s long course trail event after enduring a rollercoaster past couple of seasons.

The Trentham United Harriers athlete fractured both tibias in 2021 and faced a year out of the sport but has returned to the fold this year, securing a couple of top 15 finishes on the Skyrunner World Series.

“When I won the New Zealand trail champs in 2020 I thought I’d go to the World Championships but the event was postponed because of Covid. It has been a long wait, but now we are finally there I’m really excited to wear the singlet. So much about the sport is racing individually but it is cool to travel as part of a New Zealand team,” said Hill.

“I’ve had a few hiccups and I’ve been on a bit of rollercoaster for sure, but I hope the hard work I have put in will pay off. I know I’ve got the speed and I’ve got the fitness, I now just need that bit of luck to actually put a performance down.”

For more information on the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships go here

 

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