There was more than a touch of country in Saturday's Southland Cross-country Championships as Ricky Gutsell convincingly won the senior title on a tough Waimumu farmland course.
The Gore club that hosted the championships promised a true cross-country and certainly delivered with a steep climb, slippery descent, numerous jumps and two streams to negotiate on the four three-kilometre laps.
Gutsell, a Gore club member, not only triumphed on the course but helped set it out. If three hours of putting out markers on the morning of the race took the sting from his legs, it did not show.
Nor did the fact he has turned 50 as Gutsell opted for the open 12km event rather than the 9km masters distance. The first three laps featured a battle between Gutsell and 15-year-old Jack Beaumont, the only Southland distance runner with a win over the “old master” this season.
At the 9km mark, Beaumont lead Gutsell. However, the young runner finished there to win his M19 grade while Gutsell carried on to run an extra lap for the senior distance. At that stage, he was three minutes clear of Scott Underhay, and maintained that advantage to the finish.
Underhay (St Pauls) held his silver medal position by 27 seconds from Invercargill's Tyrone Lake.
With Gutsell running the senior race, it left the masters race to a battle of the "Glens", with Glen Mcleay (St Pauls) taking the title by 19 seconds from Glen MacIntosh (Invercargill).
Fiordland's Richard Slee was third, a further four minutes back.
Slee's son Tom took second in the M19 grade behind Beaumont, with Morgan Pearce (Gore) third and brother Bradley winning the M16 grade.
Hannah Adamson (Invercargill) was the best of the women, finishing a little under two minutes ahead of Ffion Muhl (St Pauls).
Muhl held out Holly Pierce (Invercargill) by the slimmest of margins in a desperate sprint finish.
Adamson took the W19 gold while Muhl and Pierce, along with Hannah Miller, won the W16 medals. Lesley Cantwell, a New Zealand representative walker, was next in to take the senior women's title. Jo Thomas, in her first season of harrier running, claimed the masters women trophy and championship.
Graham Neilson (St Pauls) won the masters men grade, Gary Kirkman (Fiordland) the M60 and Linda Te Au, just back from running a marathon through an African game park, the W50.
Of the younger grades, Scott Muir Invercargill), Tori Mennell (Riverton), Dyani Shepherd Oates (Fiordland )and Harry Taylor (Gore) took out their respective championships.
St Pauls won the men's teams trophy, with Invercargill taking the women's title.
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