Smashing start to season at Coach Slammer’s Cross Country Challenge

Cross Country season opened in smashing fashion at Saturday’s Coach Slammer’s Cross Country Challenge. The largest number of participants in the meet’s history competed over the 2K and 4K courses used as a trial for the 2021 New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships. Volunteers from the National Academy of Distance Running performed admirably in helping keep the meet running smoothly.
Also running smoothly was Fletcher Pickworth. The eighteen-year-old Academy runner, who recently committed to a full scholarship at Bradley University in the United States, tagged along to the aggressive-running Matt Bowen for 2.5km before steadily surging ahead to victory in the 4km race in 13min24sec. Bowen, a Year 11 student at Waimea College, easily held on for second in 13:27.
Nelson College’s Oliver McCormack roared back over the final mound, driving from seventh place to fourth place and almost catching the third-place finisher Hayden Squance in 13:51. Joshs, Gill and Fitzgerald, were only a metres behind McCormack.
David Dunbar was only a few metres behind his younger rivals for seventh place. Dunbar’s wife, Kathy, took out the women’s 4km race in 15:35. Paula Canning was next in 16:42, and academy runner Heidi Stephens in third in 17:00.
Stephens’ training partner Amelia Clark was the first finisher in the 2km race in 7:51, 29 seconds ahead of runner-up Giselle Rynvos. The Dunbars’ son Liam  was the first male finisher in 8:47.
The next meet for the Academy runners will be the President’s Run on August 1 at Branford Park.