With competitors ranging in age from "0-6 months" up to 74 years, massively strong men and the biggest athletic fields for decades, the 110th Browns sports day lived up to advance billing of catering for maximum participation on Saturday.
In the comprehensive non-stop programme of handicap events there was something for everyone.
Fine, mild weather helped staging the big programme on time.
The innovation of having an international heavyweight championship contested by two-man teams from three countries was highly successful and made possible by generous sponsorship by the local transport company McDowalls. Kilted team members Malcolm Cleghorn and Alastair Gunn (Scotland), Craig Reid and Aaron Monks (Australia) and Mick Cottrell and Reuben de Jong (Waipu, Northland) looked the part and impressed with their performances all afternoon.
In other sports, notably cycling and bushcraft, the presence of current and former international competitors lifted the quality when numbers were down.
While the glamour and glitter of world champion axemen and sawyers seen on the holiday circuit was gone, two classy performances by Craig Unahi and Nick Egerton lifted the bushcraft section of 13 races.
Top-ranked Southland cutter last season, Unahi chopped brilliantly in winning the standing championship from former New Zealand junior representative Stu Vaughan of Tuatapere. Earlier Vaughan narrowly won the underhand championship from Unahi and so set the scene for added edge to the competition.
Both men were in top form.
Unahi also shone in sawing and axethrowing wins.
Egerton dominated division two handicap events, winning three events.
Former international Mike Carran of Riverton made light of two hip replacements by notching third in the 350mm underhand championship.
First-time partners Tyler Johnston and Dwayne Unahi provided the highlight in the sawing section by winning the double peg handicap final.
Taking off from the field with 6km to ride Southland under-17 cyclist Brehan Cairns won the 36km road race in testing conditions with a time of 1hr 5min. This was a strong field that included eight New Zealand representatives and two former national representatives. Off a handicap of 8mins Cairns headed a field of 38 in the ride from West Plains Road to Browns and won by half a lap of the 400m grassed domain track. Scratch rider and Tour of Southland winner and Oceania road champion Hayden Roulston was second in 56min 23sec, just ahead of scratch marker Hayden Godfrey.
Riders battled a strong blustery and warm head wind for most of the journey.
Timaru A grade rider Shane Archibold dominated the cycling section despite riding off scratch marks. Riding on a grass track for the first time, the versatile young rider won three of the five track events and was in the money in an 800m event, In the most exciting finish of the day he won the 1600m Ray O'Connor Memorial after coming from the back in punishing fashion.
Soon after he won the demanding elimination race from co-marker James Fairweather and former Southlander Shane Melrose (Dunedin).
B grader Brendan Monaghan scored two wins in the 800m and Fairweather logged a brace of seconds in the 1600m and elimination.
Eualie Thwaites had a day to remember.
Notching wins in the open 100m, 100m married women's handicap, two placings in other athletic events she capped off the day by winning the prized South Island sheaf tossing championship.
Alistair MacKay made light of his "60-plus years" when he won the open 100m from a field of 16 and a handicap of 35m. Scratch marker Campbell Laughton impressed in winning the shot put and placed third behind Jesse Saunders and Chris Sherlock in the South Island sheaf tossing championship.
A perennial favourite, the baby show, attracted big entries and keen competition the five age groups contested were 0-6 months, 6-12monhs, 1-2 years, 2-3 years and 3-4 years.
- The Southland Times