Melbourne Sprint Weekend Day 2

Overall Standings after Race 4

Day Two of Melbourne Sprint Weekend picked up where the first day left off with more tricky courses, great areas and electrifying racing. There were tense finishes in the sprint relay, lots of fun to be had on the public race afterwards and another great technical challenge in the afternoon on a new map of the Kurunjang Schools.

Mixed sprint relays are starting to become important events on the international orienteering calendar so in some ways, it’s surprising that we’ve had so few of them in Australia. Judging by how exciting this morning’s event was both to run and to spectate, chances are we’ll be seeing a lot more of them here in the future. Bruce Arthur’s courses were successful in splitting up the packs and featured many route choice challenges as well as spectator run-throughs.

In the senior race, the favourite teams were quickly split up on the first leg but Belinda Lawford, Lanita Steer and Liis Johanson emerged roughly together at a common spectator control before entering the final loop. Lawford took the honours for first back from the pack but Steer held on enough that Canberra and Victoria went out on Leg 2 together. This set up a dream battle between Martin Dent (probably the fastest runner in the men’s field) and Peter Hodkinson (the most successful sprint orienteer in M21E) and halfway through the course it appeared as if Dent had got ahead. In reality, Hodkinson had just had the longer splits in the first half of the course so by the next spectator loop, it was the big name Brit who was in the lead. Victoria’s next runner, William Gardner, proceeded to run away from Matt Doyle, handing over to Natasha Key with the experienced Victorian only needing to complete a safe run to take out the overall victory. ACT came in next, but the news soon broke that Shannon Jones had mispunched on the final leg. Meanwhile, South Australia’s Kerrin Rattray and Simon Uppill had been making up time. Uppill’s fastest leg time of the day combined with a consistent run from Bridget Anderson allowed the Arrows to take out second place.

The Victorian second team impressed by delivering four very consistant performances to upset the other first teams and take out third place. New South Wales followed soon after to be the third official NOL team, the Queensland Cyclones slotted in to fourth place, Tasmania were fifth official and a Western Australian team containing some juniors running up put together some impressive legs to come in sixth official.

The junior race that ran concurrently was particularly exciting. The two ACT teams came back first, thanks to rapid runs from Zoe Melhuish and Ella Cuthburt. On the second leg, Noah Poland, Angus Haines and Jed Flemming came back very close together but in the end the ACT first team’s consistency across all legs that proved too hard to beat with Tara Melhuish bringing them home to win by just over a minute. Rachel Allen appeared to hold off Joanna George for second but the Tasmanian, Allen, had mispunched earlier in the course. As a result, South Australia came third with Queensland fourth.

The courses were cleverly designed so that everyone ran all the same loops, just in different orders and therefore, the leg times can also count for overall MSW results. On the women’s legs, Belinda Lawford was fastest, with Natasha Key and Lanita Steer both a second slower. Simon Uppill was fastest of the men, followed by Will Gardner, Patrick Jaffe, Aston Key and Brodie Nankervis.

Even after yesterday’s sweltering conditions and the hot competition this morning, things really started to heat up in the afternoon when we arrived in Melton for the final NOL race of this weekend. The map was another compact school campus and Kerrin Rattray’s courses provided lots of interesting route choice dilemmas.

In W21E, Krystal Neumann took out her first win of the weekend in another close battle with the ever consistent Belinda Lawford who was two seconds behind. Liis Johanson, Michele Dawson and Lanita Steer rounded out the top five. Tara Melhuish took out a conclusive win in W20E with an impressive time that would have made her competitive at the top of the senior age class. Asha Steer, Rachel Allen and Zoe Melhuish were split by just six seconds in places two to four.

In M21E, the Brits were again too hard for the locals to beat. This time it was Peter Hodkinson’s turn to one up William Gardner by 2 seconds. Simon Uppill topped off a very consistent couple of days of racing to be a further 2 seconds behind Gardner. In the juniors, Aston Key earned his third win of the weekend with Patrick Jaffe and Angus Haines around 30 second back from him, followed by Joseph Dickinson and Duncan Currie.

While the NOL races are now complete, the action continues tomorrow with a head to head loops race at Royal Park, a surprisingly challenging forest map right near the centre of Melbourne. Then in the afternoon, MSW overall results will be finalised at Keilor Downs Secondary College, another tricky campus map that was very popular when it was last used for a Sprint into Spring race a couple of years ago.

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