Athletics: Duncan rockets to canter success

Courtney Duncan on her way to winning the female section of the Kelly's Canter yesterday. Photo...
Courtney Duncan on her way to winning the female section of the Kelly's Canter yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Courtney Duncan exchanged horsepower for foot power to win the open women's section of Kelly's Canter at Palmerston yesterday.

Celebrating the 40th running of the 4km slog up and back down the town's Puketapu Hill, Duncan surprised many with the ease of her victory, recording 27min 35sec to finish 3min 6sec clear of second-placed Bridget Thompson.

The 14-year-old, year 10 student at East Otago High School has barely had time to settle after winning the open female section of the Australian motocross championships at Lake Macqurie in New South Wales, and only decided to enter yesterday's event because her bike has not yet been reassembled following her recent trip back from Australia.

Had her bike been in one piece she would have been off competing in the southern series competition.

Branded the Kiwi pocket rocket in the Australian championships, where only one other rider (a boy) had the better of her, she finished second overall, and secured a growing respect in the motocross community following her sixth place at last year's world championships in Taupo.

But yesterday was not the pocket rocket's first success on the Kellys Canter course.

With motocross her first-choice event over the past two years she has not been able to run in the event, but prior to that won junior age-group categories in three consecutive years.

Dunedin's Mike Wakelin put a winter of discontent behind him to take overall honours and win the open men's section in 20min 32sec.

Wakelin, the 2009 Otago half marathon champion, had not featured during the recent winter season, suffering from one cold after another.

Yesterday, it was not his health, but a near miss in course direction, that almost brought about his undoing.

Wakelin was about to miss a course change that turned the field left into the paddocks at the foot of Puketapu when called back by second-placed Will Smith.

From then on the race belonged to Wakelin, as Smith could not counter his uphill pace and technique on the steep descent, crossing the finish at the Palmerston Railway Station in a slick 20min 32sec. Smith was second in 23min, heading off a family battle for third between Russell Hurring and son-law Stafford Thompson.

Honours eventually went to Hurring, a past champion on the course, in 24min 15sec, with Thompson fourth in 24min 37sec.

Thompson, the 2007 national marathon champion, had not long previously completed an 18-hole round of golf before taking on Puketapu.

Hurring accepted the scalp of Thompson and was full of praise for Wakelin's victory, given that the course had been extended before the ascent of the hill for safety concerns.

"I would add at least 2min, so that's quite a good result for Mike," he said.

Given this, it would also put Duncan's result in perspective, as she finished just behind this group.


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