Women set pace at first combined Barnes Cross-country

Runners (from left) Kotomiyo Cowell, Charlotte Summers, Lola Saunders, Celia Lie and Donna Tumaru...
Runners (from left) Kotomiyo Cowell, Charlotte Summers, Lola Saunders, Celia Lie and Donna Tumaru begin their three laps of racing in the Barnes Cross-Country at Kettle Park in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Girl-power was at the forefront in the reformatted Barnes Cross-country at Kettle Park yesterday.

The brainchild of the late Sir James Barnes, the 1932 national cross-country champion, a two-term member of Parliament for St Kilda and mayor of Dunedin 1968-77, the event has been an annual fixture on the local running scene since 1950.

But time brings change and this year, for the first time, no separate races for men and women were on the card.

Instead the three-lap 3.75km race for women became an open event, as too, the old four-lap 5km race just for men.

Female athletes proved a force in both feature races, making the statement that the new format will usher in a new era in gender equality in local running events.

The three-lap event provided a thrilling finish between two future stars in the local running scene, Kotomiyo Cowell (Ariki) and Matheson Colquhoun (Caversham).

Cowell (12), a year 8 pupil at Tahuna Intermediate, competing from a handicap of 3min 45sec, took the lead early on the second lap and gradually extended it to hold a 25sec advantage over Ariki club-mates Charlotte Summers and Lola Saunders.

But chasing hard from the 7min 15sec mark was Colqhoun (16), a year 12 pupil at John McGlashan College and a national junior men's age-group duathlon representative.

Colqhoun, who was running off the disappointment of the cancellation of the world duathlon championships in the Netherlands in recent days, turned for the second half of the final lap still trailing Cowell by 62sec.

But a turbocharged run brought him alongside Cowell in the last 50m, and with dogged determination he crossed 3sec clear in a running time of 21min 49sec, with an actual race time for the distance of 14min 34sec.

It was the fastest time clocked on the three-lap course overall by 46sec, ahead of club-mate Harry Summers who recorded the second-fastest time of 15min 20sec.

But there was consolation for Cowell, who claimed the under-16 open title, and her actual running time of 18min 7sec gained her fifth-fastest time in open women's competition and second-fastest in under-16.

With Cowell setting the benchmark for female athletes in the open three-lap event, it was the turn of Amanda Waldrom (Taieri) in the open four-lap 5km event.

Competing from the 6min 30sec mark, she gradually worked her way through the competitor traffic to head into the final lap in third place.

As the first field turned with half a lap remaining, she held a handy 45sec lead over defending champion Phil Morris. A torrid pace was being set by a rapidly converging field behind them.

Despite tweaking a calf muscle in the final 100m, Waldrom (38) held on to finish 29sec clear of Ben Pigou (Caversham), and third-placed Jake Owen (Hill City-University) to break the mould on what was once a male-only 5km race.

Waldrom, who clocked an actual running time of 23min 5sec, had little time for reflection on her victory, when son Jude (6) reminded her of her family obligations in taking him to the movies later in the day to see Spirit Untamed.

International triathlete Janus Staufenberg (Leith) clocked fastest time overall on the 5km course of 16min 48sec. Russell Green (Hill City-University) was second-fastest with 17min 5sec and Jared Monk third-fastest with 17min 9sec.

 - Wayne Parsons

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