Lautenslager brothers set pace at Tasman Cross Country Champs

Saturday’s Tasman Centre Cross Country Championships was more than a casual run for Athletics Nelson runners Craig, Jeff, and Jared Lautenslager.
They trudged through rain, mud, and puddles and slid up and down the steep slopes of the Waahi Taakaro Golf Course to reach the finish line ahead of their pursuers. The effort was worth Tasman Centre senior, junior, and youth titles. But it wasn’t easy.
“It was muddy as heck,’’ Craig said. “You couldn’t get a very good grip, and the hill was almost unrunable.

“It’s a good course, but hard for any course to hold up under conditions like that.”

All competitors set off together, running various laps of the 2km loop required for their age groups. The Lautenslagers led everyone out and ran together for the first lap before Craig broke away on the second of his five laps in the senior division 10km race. He would lap all but two of the runners doing the 8km race and reached the finish line in 33min45sec, almost 1½ minutes ahead of runner-up Brad Warr.

Jared clung to Jeff’s shoulder, keeping a gap on his teammate Sam Mackay-Wright. Jared surged ahead of his brother, crossing the finish line for his third straight Tasman Youth Men’s 6km title in 20min26sec and 12 seconds ahead of runner-up MacKay-Wright. William Wallace was third in 21min48sec.
Jeff continued on his fourth and final lap and won his Junior Men’s 8km race in 27min32sec.
Paula Canning dominated the senior women’s 8km in 33min9sec. Bridie Edwards won the youth women’s 4km race for the second straight year in 15min31sec, 28 seconds ahead of Athletics Nelson teammate Beth Versey and 32 seconds ahead of Sophie Smith.
Beth’s father, Pete, took out the masters men’s 8km title in 31min6sec.
Eloise Beattie outraced her training mate Hunta Sutherland for the U15 girls 3km title in 12min9sec. Fenlon Bayley won the U13 boys 2km race in 7min34sec, a second ahead of his brother Oxford. Their sister Ariah won the U10 girls 1km race in 6min11sec.
Athletics Nelson president Eric Verstappen claimed his first-ever Tasman Centre title, capturing the 4km race walk in 28min42sec.
Many of these runners will take aim on the New Zealand Cross Country Championships, which will be held at Halswell Quarry in Christchurch on August 1.