Queensland’s Peyton Craig and WA’s Rhianna Hepburn made every post a winner after officials were forced to switch Saturday’s Oceania Junior Triathlon Championship into a sprint duathlon at Werribee South Beach.
Heavy rain the night before made the course unsuitable for swimming with the 750m swim leg replaced by a 2.5km run leg to decide the Oceania Junior Champions.
The future stars of the sport pushed their limits on the fast-paced Werribee duathlon course and while not a super technical course, the windy conditions provided a challenge on the bike.
It was Craig in the Junior Males and Hepburn in the Junior Females who made the most of the conditions and forced change to a 2.5km run; 20km bike and 5km run course.
The multi-talented Craig, a National age track champion from 800m through 1500m and 3000m, wasted no time setting a cracking pace on the opening run leg in the men’s race.
Craig led the run from the get-go and was first in and out of T1 from run onto the bike with an early battle royal shaping up with Runaway Bay Super Sprint champion and fellow Queenslander Toby Powers.
It then shaped up to be a true Trans-Tasman challenge over the course of the next seven laps on the bike with the leading Australians joined in the race by New Zealanders Sam Parry, Oliver Larcombe and Henry McMecking.
But when it came down to the final 5km run it was the Australian boys Craig, Powers and East Maitland twin Monty Dixon who stole the show – Craig showing his track running skills to score a narrow win from a close-up Powers with Dixon third.
Parry hung on to be the first Kiwi home, before Victoria’s Darcy Williams, followed by McMecking (NZL) and Larcombe (NZL), ahead of exciting green horn and one of the best open water swimmers in the field Brayden Mercer (QLD) unable to show his wares, with fellow Queenslander Jordan Chugg ninth and Ivan Abele (NZL) rounding out the top 10.
In the Junior females race it was Queenslander Briana Mow who was first into T1 in the lead pack which also included Paige Cranage (SA), Kelsey Mitchell (QLD), Emma Olson-Keating (NSW), Gabby Jackson (QLD), Hepburn, Sophie Spencer (NZL) and Georgia Fredricks (QLD).
A smooth transition from Cranage saw her first onto the bike course with the rest of pack including Olson-Keating, Hepburn, Spencer and Mitchell in hot pursuit and the windy conditions making it tough for the rest of the field.
A pivotal lead change on the second run lap saw Hepburn, who had stayed in contention all through bike, run away with the win, Cranage, second in Runaway Bay, holding on to second with New Zealand’s Spencer rounding out the podium.
Olson-Keating (NSW) finished fourth ahead of Queenslanders Mitchell, Runaway Bay winner Jackson, Fredricks, Mow, WA’s Madison Toovey in 9th and Victorian Skye Wallace rounding out the top 10.
With the change to duathlon format, final positions for this year’s Junior World Championships in Montreal will now be discretionary after Brad Course and Chloe Bateup secured the first automatic selections from the Devonport Oceania Cup race in February.
In the Youth racing, it was a successful day for Victorian girl Natasha Gurtler who showed all her early promise to land the double, winning both Super Sprint races over the Duathlon Course of the 600m run, 6km bike and 1.2km run.
In race one it was Gurtler who held on to win in 17 minutes 48 seconds from NSW pair Skye Bell (17.54) and Montana Doubell (18.03). Before she repeated the dose in race two, this time ahead of Queensland pair Hannah Pollock and Kate Herd with Bell fourth and Doubell sixth.
The first of the two Youth Male races went to Queensland’s Dylan Smith from NSW pair Kade Zavetsanos and Angus Sampson. Victorian lad Jackson Wright, seventh in the opening race, backed up to take out the second race from Rhys Olson-Keating and the consistent Smith with Zavetsanos and Sampson fifth and sixth respectively.
Final standings included a VIC, NSW and NSW female podium with Gurtler, Bell and Doubell; and QLD, NSW, QLD in the males with Smith, Zavetsanos, and Jack Simonds (QLD).
National Talent Development Coach, Brendan Sexton says athletes embraced everything thrown at them for a successful weekend of racing.
“For our youth and junior athletes building back from covid, event postponement, a rain deluge causing unfit water quality and some exceptionally chilly conditions, I witnessed our best athletes step up to each new challenge as well as our next up-and-comers consolidate themselves.
“The Oceania Junior Sprint Championships Werribee was the final of a very unusual season. Across the major domestic events for our junior athletes we’ve seen an array of strong competitors. While national sprint champions were not present in Werribee - the pair who took out the super sprint titles in Runaway Bay (Jackson, Powers) were.
“In the men’s the battle on paper was between Craig, Powers, Dixon and Dixon. Fortunately, the New Zealanders were emboldened to change that narrative and made the most of their relative ambiguity. The pace of the first run was dictated by Craig leading with burning pace into T1 with a small margin over a motivated group.
“Despite the double run of the duathlon the bike was more of a critical factor in the women’s race. Pressure was applied by Hepburn and Cranage with strong support from Olson-Keating, Mitchell and Spencer (NZ) providing a substantial buffer into the second run leg to noted runners like Mow, Jackson and Fredricks.
“Cranage was assertive early into the 5km run but a gusty and ever-changing bike course may have allowed Hepburn to sustain some energy and back end her run to take the lead in the second half of the run, holding on to take out the Oceania title ahead of Cranage and Spencer.
“The youth racing was interesting from a learning perspective. From race 1 to race 2 there seemed to be a lot of change in tactic and race planning approaches. Recovery strategies, pacing adjustments for the duathlon format and race awareness on the bike with a gusty and windy course playing a big part in the small shifts across the two races causing a big impact on the overall results in both the boys and the girls."
Oceania Triathlon Junior Championship (Duathlon) 2.5km run; 20km bike; 5km run.
1. Peyton Craig (QLD) 53.46 (Oceania Triathlon Junior Champion)
2.Toby Powers (QLD) 53.47
3. Monty Dixon (NSW) 53.56
4. Sam Parry (NZL) 54.23
5. Darcy Williams (VIC) 54.29
6. Henry McMecking (NZL) 54.55
7. Oliver Larcombe (NZL) 55.05
8. Brayden Mercer (QLD) 55.34
9. Jordan Chugg (QLD) 55.39
10. Ivan Abele (NZL) 55.41
1. Rhianna Hepburn (WA) 1:00:33 (Oceania Triathlon Junior Champion)
2. Paige Cranage (SA) 1:00:54
3. Sophie Spencer (NZL) 1:01.19
4. Emma Olson-Keating (NSW) 1:01.58
5. Kelsey Mitchell (QLD) 1:02:46
6. Gaby Jackson (QLD) 1:04.04
7. Georgia Fredricks (QLD) 1:04.11
8. Briana Mow (QLD) 1:04.13
9. Madison Toovey (WA) 1:04.35
10. Skye Wallace (VIC) 1:04.41