It was a battle of epic proportions that came down to the final points event of the day - the boys under-17 1000m scratch race - to determine that James Hargest College had done enough to retain their title by a mere one point over rivals Southland Girls' High School at the Stadium Southland velodrome on Sunday.
The 2012 South Island and Southland Secondary School Track Championships attracted more than 40 riders from as far afield as Ashburton College, including St John's Girls, Southland Boys' High, Northern Southland College, Fiordland College and Gore High School, and the competition proved stiff from the outset as James Hargest and Southland Girls' put up their hands for as many points as they could get.
Little pocket rocket Libby Bayne (SGHS) showed her sprinting prowess in the U17 girls' to take two of three wins in the derby and scratch race events with a second placing in the time trial, pushing her to the win over counterpart Sophie McMurdo (JHC) and Bronwyn Graham (SGHS), who has been showing great form since recently returning to the track after a year off the bike.
Under-17 schoolmates Anton O'Connell and Joe Archer (JHC) had a tough battle, with O'Connell pipping Archer for wins in the time trial and scratch race before Archer got the final say with a win in the derby. The most-travelled rider of the day, Sam Cullimore, from Ashburton, proved steady to take home three thirds and the bronze medal.
Rising track star Emma Cumming proved too strong for her Southland Girls' mates, taking out the under-15 girls' event with a clean sweep of wins, with Sheree Horne and Aly Doherty having a great battle to finish second and third respectively.
It was fantastic to see this age group bolstered by several St John's riders, who were giving some courageous, confidence-building performances considering their recent introduction to track racing.
The biggest field of the day, the under-15 boys, provided the toughest competition of the event as the top five - Brayden Stephens, Tom Sexton, Hayden Strong , Josh Carpenter and Hamish Beadle - battled for placings across the races.
Beadle (JHC) prevailed to secure a win in the derby and two seconds in the TT and scratch to take top placing. Carpenter had a first and second in the TT and derby to take silver, followed by Sexton (JHC) with two thirds for bronze. A win for Stephens in the scratch and a third for Strong in the derby had them nipping at the back wheels of the placegetters.
Many more promising riders also put their hands up to feature in the near future, including Jack Pedler, Bradly Knipe, Matt Nunn, Corbin Strong and Josh Officer.
It was the James Hargest top-three finish of Stephens, Beadle and Sexton in the 1000m scratch in the final event of the day that secured their school team a win over Southland Girls', by 32 points to 31, with Southland Boys' picking up six points and Ashburton College with three.
To complete the day, a series of fun team sprints were held and, while no points were factored into the competition tally, the battles were played out as the James Hargest trio of Stephens, Sexton and Beadle beat the seriously competitive Carpenter, Strong and Knipe.
- The Southland Times