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The pair returned to their medical studies at the University of Otago — and running as representatives of the Dunedin Leith club — in mid-June, after three months of intensive racing on the world triathlon circuit and contesting elite grades at the World Cup in Huatako, Mexico.
Both had an immediate impact on the local harrier scene, Thornbury (24) finishing runner-up in the senior women’s section of the Otago cross-country and Staufenberg (23) winning a fourth consecutive senior men’s title.
Having missed the past two seasons with an Achilles injury, Thornbury topped the podium on the Mt Maunganui leg of the Oceania Triathlon Cup series in April, and on Saturday was again at the top of the Otago road race.
It was a classy run from Thornbury, who took to an early lead and continued to stamp her authority on the women’s field to finish the 10km event in 37min 26sec, almost 5min clear of second-placed Hannah Kempf (Timaru, 42min 8sec) and third-placed Laura Bungard (Caversham, 45min 28sec).
Thornbury said the weather and track conditions were ideal for helping her to achieve the goals she set for herself pre-race.
"I’m in off-season [for triathlon] at the moment while training for a couple of world cups, the first one coming up in October [in South Korea]," she said.
"So it was good training in aiming towards those triathlons.
"It’s really good to be back and [this result] shows the training is paying off."
In the senior men’s event, also held on the 10km course, Staufenberg hit his straps early on to get clear from the field.
He seemed to cruise to victory in 31min 14sec, more than 2min clear of second placed Finn Molloy (Hill City-University), who clocked 33min 17sec, and Corey Lewis (Leith), third in 33min 35sec.
"That was a good hit-out," Staufenberg said at the finish, adding that he thought the course was good for a fast 10km.
Although in off-season training mode with a focus on world and Oceania elite triathlon racing over the summer months ahead, Staufenberg was pleased with his time, although almost 2min down on his personal best for 10km of 29min 40sec.
"It could have been faster today. I think there was a bit of wind coming back, so I’ll use that as an excuse."
Staufenberg has made some "good gains" in his running in recent times and is looking at contesting the national road championships in Upper Hutt early next month.
National secondary schools cross-country champion Zara Geddes (Hill City-University) showed the field a clean pair of heels in her dominance on the combined 5km course, winning the under-18 women’s title in a smart 18min 19sec.
Kimberley Iversen (Invercargill) was second in 19min 3sec, while third-placed Becky De La Harpe (Caversham) claimed the under-20 women’s title in 19min 41sec.
Josh Hou (Hill City-University) led from the start to win the under-20 men’s title on the 8km course, clocking 29min. On the 6km course, Matthew Bolter (Hill City-University) won the men’s under-18 title in 20min 29sec.