2018 NZ Road Champs
Preview (Updated for Late Entries)
New Zealand Road Champs return to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty
region this year. They were last in this part of the country
in 2015 when Tauranga hosted. This year it’s Cambridge. It
is only the second time in over 45 years that Cambridge has
hosted this event. Possibly only the second time ever (I
only have records back to 1972) for it to be in Cambridge.
The last time it was here was 1992.
We have 361 entries. That’s not
bad for a location with no airport. The upper half of the
North Island will likely drive to Cambridge; for the rest of
the country there is the choice to drive after flying to
Hamilton, possibly even Rotorua or Auckland. Perhaps this is
why there are no masters entries from Otago and
only one each from Southland and Nelson but it doesn’t explain the absence
of Taranaki runners.
In the meantime,
there are some notable absences from the entry lists. One
major cause is the World Masters Athletics Championships in
Malaga. Wellington’s team has been hit hard with these,
losing M50 winner Michael Wray and runner-up Peter Stevens.
Michael was the only M50 to run sub-35 in all the NZ Centre
Road Champs this year, while Peter would normally be
expected to do the same, so both would have been considered
favourites had they been available to run. Wellington also
lose Mat Rogers from the M35s, top W35 Tina Faulkner and M60
Tony Price. Tony Price’s absence is compounded with Geoff
Anderson also going to Spain; there will be a couple of
medals available in the M60s that you would usually consider
pre-assigned. Sally Gibbs, Alastair Prangnell and Graeme
Lear are another three who would have been favourites to win
gold medals. Wellington also misses one of its top M40s with
Stephen Day unable to make the trip to Cambridge, albeit not
for Malaga. With the country’s top M40, Steve Rees-Jones not
running (unless a last minute recovery from the health
issues he’s suffered since cross country produces a late
entry), it means there will be a feeding frenzy in the M40
ranks to be able to take advantage!
There are others and
I could go on but this is a preview of the NZ Road Champs,
rather than the World Masters Champs, so let’s focus on who
is competing in Cambridge.
While there is a
reasonable turnout for most grades in the masters men,
albeit that they’re missing some of the top guys, for the
masters women it is very poor. There are 29 masters women
and only nine of these will miss out on an individual
medal. Most of these are foregone conclusions.
There are only five
W35s and only four of these appear to be realistically
looking at the age-group podium. The one who will definitely miss out
is Charlotte Bartrum from Tauranga. In the absence of Tina
Faulkner, who would have won this race by around three
minutes, Auckland’s Bridie Hart will go up against local
Veronica Maree for the win. Curiously, Maree is marked in
the Waikato Centre Champs as a social runner so has
presumably upgraded to full membership to be allowed to
compete. In the race for third, Tauranga’s Krissy Tanner
goes up against Canterbury’s Shannon-Leigh Litt. Krissy won
this head-to-head by 40 seconds last year so starts as the
big favourite for bronze.
versus Michelle Hopkins
We have four W40s
and once again, it appears only three are in the running.
Auckland’s Katrin Gottschalk is going to need to improve by
about a minute on what she ran at the 2017 and 2016 champs to
get a sniff of the podium. Wellington’s Lindsay Barwick
starts as the narrow favourite. The Wellington champion will
have Auckland champion Michelle Hopkins for company. Waikato
champion Tanja Miller has the slowest centre champs time but
can’t be discounted from challenging at the front. I would
be surprised if the gap between whoever finishes first and
whoever finishes third exceeds 10 seconds. The front three
here will be the first three masters women overall.
Michelle Van Looy
The numbers remain
low in the W45s. Of the five, two do not seem to be in the
running. Auckland Triathlete Natasja Barclay and
Canterbury’s Katherine Fitch will be a minute, possibly two,
behind the other three. Of the remaining three, the race
will be between Wellington’s Michelle Van Looy and Waikato’s
Judith May. Wellington’s Andrea Harris can expect to finish
with a comfortable third but miss the front two by 30
The W50s are even
more scarce and noticeably lacks perennial challenger and
Canterbury champion Maggie Chorley. Ariana Summers from
Canterbury should take advantage of the absence of the only
W50 to beat her at centre champs to take the gold medal. The
only other W50 is Jacqueline Eastman, who can expect to be
20 seconds behind Ariana.
Sally Gibbs being in
Malaga means someone will win a gold medal they otherwise
would miss out on. A late entry brings the number of runners
up to four so only one will miss a medal; this will be Judith Uhlenberg,
around five minutes
behind Maureen Leonard in third. Carolyn
Smith will be under pressure for first place from Carline
Thomas. Carolyn is a slight favourite but a gap of less than
10 seconds means Carline could come through on the day.
For the W60s the one
to miss out on the medal will be Penny Burkhardt, who will
be some 30 seconds behind Sue Meltzer. It will be Sue’s
second year picking up the W60 bronze. Second place will be
Auckland’s Karen Crossan. Invercargill’s sole representative
is Debbie Telfer and she will win the W60 gold by around a
couple of minutes.
Sue Meltzer and
The oldest grade for
the masters women this year is the W65 grade. This grade has only five runners. Unlike the
others this grade could see a narrow gap between first and
last. Canterbury’s Margaret Flanagan starts as the slight
favourite. Auckland’s Barbara Scarfe is second favourite,
with Pam Graham, Judith Bradshaw and Kathy Howard too close to call.
Really these five could finish in any order.
entry completes their team so there are four
teams. This is not great news for Canterbury, who now have little to
no chance of making the podium. Wellington, Waikato and Auckland will be very close and the three teams
must pay attention to some head-to-heads to decide the win.
Lindsay Barwick against Michelle Hopkins against Tanja Miller will take place at the
front end. In the upper-middle range, Auckland’s Bridie Hart
and Karin Gottschalk against Waikato’s Judith May and
Veronica Maree and Wellington's Andrea Harris and Carline
Thomas will be the decisive race.
Jonny Mckee & Graeme
The M35s have 12
runners. Last year’s winner, Alasdair Saunders from
Wellington, is back to defend his title and he will go up
against 2017 M35 silver medallist Damien Cook again.
However, I think it unlikely that either will find their way
in to the top three this time. The standout runner in the
field is Jonny McKee. Three years ago McKee ran 31:28 and
finished as third SM. He lined up in Auckland in 2017 and
recorded fast times at the World Masters Games but we
haven’t seen him compete since then, not even in the centre
road champs. Has he been away, been too busy moving house
from Auckland to the Waikato or has he been injured? If
McKee is fit, he could win the masters overall and be well
ahead of the second placed M35. The other M35s should have
some tight racing. Napier’s Graeme Buscke will be back from
London, Wellington’s Valentino Luna Hernandez is in good
form and Auckland’s Nick Pannett showed good form to win the
Auckland Champs. All three of these can run under 34 minutes
for 10km, meaning the rest of the field will need a tactical
race to stand a chance. Assuming McKee is in form, the big
question is which of those three will miss the medals. It
will be close but I’m picking Pannett for silver and Luna
Hernandez for bronze.
Brian Garmonsway and Craig Kirkwood
Of the 14 M40s,
there is one clear favourite. Brian Garmonsway recorded
31:49 in the Wellington Road Champs on a course that
requires four hill climbs and descents. No other runner in
the field has a recent sub-32 to their name. The contest to
thrill spectators should be M40 v M35, Garmonsway v McKee,
at the head of the field for the overall first place. If
there is to be an upset, look to Craig Kirkwood. Kirkwood is
better known as a coach these days and doesn’t seem to race
much. The Tauranga runner ran 32:43 in 2017 on a tight
course with forty 90-degree corners, which suggests he can’t
be discounted from getting that time down on a more
favourable course. He did start the Waikato centre champs
but pulled out before 4km. Assuming Kirkwood is still okay
to run to form, there will be a minute back to third place.
Expect that third place to be decided by a close contest
between two Wellington runners (Levente Timar and Andrew
Wharton), with Cantabrian David Fitch and Aucklander Nick
Moore in the mix. If past races are a guide, these four will
stay tightly packed testing each other’s resolve to hang on,
until the final kilometre when it will turn into a drag
race. It’s impossible to pick one, though the centre champ
results suggest Timar is a very slight favourite.
Chris Mardon looking
Chris Mardon could
be considered favourite to retain the M45 title but he will
have to put in the work to stay ahead of Auckland’s Sasha
Daniels. Sasha won their head-to-head in the mud at National
Cross Country by a mere second. Daniels has much better
finishing speed than Mardon so if they remain together with
a kilometre to go my money is on Auckland. Third place will
feature Jason Baillie (Canterbury), Dean Chiplin (Waikato/BOP),
Mark Reid (Canterbury) and Simon Yarrow (Auckland). Darren
Gordon has picked up a foot injury since the centre champs,
otherwise he could have been in the mix too.
Canterbury, Waikato/BOP and Wellington have complete M35-49
teams. Wellington should win thanks to Brian Garmonsway,
Levente Timar, Andrew Wharton and Valentino Luna Hernandez.
Wellington have enough depth with Tom Bland, Paul Barwick
and Alasdair Saunders preventing other teams scoring as high
as they otherwise could. Auckland will take second: Sasha
Daniels, Nick Pannett, Nick Moore and Simon Mace should have
enough to see off Canterbury and Waikato. Despite being the host
centre, Waikato are overly reliant on Jonny McKee and Craig
Kirkwood to do more than fight for third. Lance Brew and
Dean Chiplin should add enough points to Waikato so that
Canterbury miss out on the teams medals. If Canterbury are
to get on the podium, they will need Mark Reid and Damien
Cook to get up and also ask Jason Baillie to get ahead of
Brew and Chiplin.
Tony Broadhead and
The M50 race could
be a puzzle. In the absence of Wray and Stevens, not to
mention Richard Bennett, you would have thought Waikato’s
Tony Broadhead to be clear favourite to add the NZ Road
Champ title to the NZ Cross Country title he won so
convincingly. This confidence has to be punctured by a
centre road champs where Tony only just broke 37 minutes.
The photos show a good day so perhaps it’s a slow course?
Assuming Tony is okay, I see a three-way contest where he
will go up against Wellington’s Grant McLean and Auckland’s
Gavin Butler. Waikato’s John Crane and Kent Hodgson (who
turns 50 just two weeks before the race) and
Wellington’s Bill Twiss will be in close attention too,along
with late entry Chris Myland, but it’s hard to see any of
the other seven being in contention.
Paul Hewitson versus Richard Seigne
Paul Hewitson from
Wellington is the pick of the M55s. He will have
Canterbury’s Richard Seigne not far behind. Richard won
their head-to-head at NZXC but on tar seal, and if he stays
off the beers beforehand, Paul should be comfortably ahead.
Graeme Butcher, also from Wellington, should be chasing for
third place but Canterbury’s Antony Rogal will be looking to
show he runs better away from the mud after Graeme thrashed
him at NZXC.
Where are all the
M60s this year? We had four at NZXC and for road champs, we
have also have four. There’s no doubt that if they weren’t in Malaga,
Geoff Anderson and Tony Price would have been the first two
in the M60s. Instead, we will have Kevin Knowles (Waikato)
racing Peter Richards (Canterbury) for gold/silver and
Auckland’s Malcolm Chamberlin will be several minutes back
in third. I’m picking Peter Richards to see off Kevin by
around 15 to 30 seconds. Late entry Grahame Clarkin has no
real chance of catching Malcolm for third.
The M65s will put on
a good race. Tauranga’s Gavin Smith starts as the favourite.
He can expect Eric Phimister from Napier to give him close attention. Eric ran well at the 2016 Road Champs and
was a fraction quicker than Gavin at their respective centre
champs. Third place will most likely be Nelson's sole
representative, Derek Shaw. Chasing him will be Hamilton’s Colin King
and Hatea’s John Kent with Adrian Brouwers (also Hatea) as
the wildcard. The only M65 with no medal pretensions at all is
Auckland’s Richard Thomson.
M65 Gavin Smith & M70
We have five M70s
and Lake City’s Trevor Ogilvie is in a class of his own; he
should win by at least five minutes. Late entry Fred Needham
from Cambridge will be up against Auckland’s Peter Willmott
for second. I expect Fred to win by around 45 seconds. Peter
will be safely two or three minutes ahead of fourth. The
fourth place could come down to a gap of a few seconds. Napier’s
Robin Reed will be up against Tauranga’s John Shivas for the
There is one M75, a
late entry from Peter Vyver is a guaranteed gold providing
he finishes even though he's likely to be last to finish
The M80 grade has two competitors. Auckland YMCA runner Robert Wynn is the
oldest man in the field, around three months older than
Northland’s Dave Eastmond. With youth on his side, Dave can expect to win by a minute or so.
As with the younger
masters, the M50+ teams race is Auckland, Canterbury,
Waikato/BOP and Wellington. Wellington have no margin of
error; missing their two best runners has left them no spare
runners and they have just four. Canterbury seem to be the
weakest of the four teams, reliant on a Wellington team with
no backup to suffer a mishap. Auckland don’t seem to have
the depth to challenge Wellington or Waikato. The contest
between Wellington and Waikato looks fascinating, with no
clear-cut favourite. The key contests can be split into four
sets of pairs: Tony Broadhead versus Grant McLean, Kent
Hodgson versus Paul Hewitson, John Crane versus Bill Twiss
and Bruce Edwards versus Graeme Butcher.