New generation of champions farewell Judkins
As Robin Judkins bowed out after 32 years with the Coast to Coast, a new generation of champions emerged at Sumner Beach on Saturday.
During the past decade, Richard and Elina Ussher, Gordon Walker, Emily Miazga, Kristina Anglem and Sophie Hart have carved out a special chapter in the Coast to Coast, winning multiple Longest Day titles.
A fresh era is dawning after Methven-raised Braden Currie, who now lives in Wanaka, made it back-to-back Longest Day triumphs.
The 27-year-old again produced a blistering performance in the 33km mountain run over Goat Pass, arriving at Klondyke Corner with a 21-minute lead over his rivals, which he never surrendered. His mountain run time of 2hr 49min 56sec was one of the quickest in the history of the event, rivalling 1994 winner Keith Murray.
Currie finished the 243km race in 11hr 18min 37sec, 21 minutes ahead of five-time champion Richard Ussher, who The Press can reveal will take over from Judkins as race director.
It was a golden day for the Currie family, with Braden's elder brother Glen third.
Wellington's Jess Simson, 29, who now lives in Wanaka, announced herself as a rising star last year, shattering the women's two-day individual record.
In her first year competing in the Longest Day, she produced a consistent race on Saturday, surviving a fightback from Elina Ussher on the kayak to cross the finish line with a 14-minute advantage.
Coast to Coast founder Judkins, who has been race director since the inaugural version in 1983, said a new breed of athletes were beginning to shine through.
"Braden and Jess are the new ones. Jess is so determined. She's at that age where nothing is going to stop her. Braden is exactly the same. They will also attract lots of other people to have a go against them."
Currie was in a league of his own in the men's race, sticking to his strategy of going hard on the mountain run and never relenting. Ussher, a noted kayaker, managed to trim his lead down to 17min as he got out of the kayak at the Waimakariri Gorge, but that was as close as he got.
Only four men have previously managed to defend their Longest Day crowns, and Currie said it was a huge milestone for him.
"Back-to-back wins. I don't believe it. I just had a really great day out there and nothing really went wrong.
"I felt good the whole way through the run and I knew I had a good solid lead."
Ussher was full of praise for Currie and said his outstanding mountain run was always going to make it difficult to peg him back.
"I wasn't really firing. Full credit to Braden, what a phenomenal day he must have had. That run was unbelievable. I gave it everything I had."
Simson's victory was extra sweet after she made the bold decision to resign from her job as a Department of Conservation ranger after winning last year's two-day race to concentrate on being a fulltime athlete.
"It's true testament to if you put your mind to something it will happen. It's like ‘Wow, what they tell you at primary school is true'," she said.
Simson credited her coach Matty Graham, who has worked with her since last May, as a key ingredient to her success.
Christchurch-based physiotherapist Brendon Vercoe retained his overnight lead in the two-day men's individual race to win his first title in 12hr 49min 26sec - 17 minutes clear of fellow Cantabrian Byron Munro.
Irish native Fiona Dowling held on to her overnight advantage to win the women's two-day individual crown in 13.57.15.
Christchurch duo Paul Massie and Robert Loveridge, who are veterans of the Coast to Coast, were popular victors in the two-day teams race. Tania Leslie, Stevo Porter and Scott Ronald had the quickest two-day three person team time with 13.29.38.
AT A GLANCE
Men's individual Longest Day: 1. Braden Currie (Wanaka) 11.18.37; 2. Richard Ussher (Nelson) 11.39.19; 3. Glen Currie (Methven) 11.57.29; 4. Sam Manson (Wairoa) 12.06.04; 5. Trevor Voyce (Nelson) 12.07.38.
Women's individual Longest Day: 1. Jess Simson (Wanaka) 13.12.24; 2. Elina Ussher (Nelson) 13.26.10; 3. Anyika Thomsen (Waipukurau) 13.54.49; 4. Emily Wilson (Cambridge) 14.24.08; 5. Annabel Ramsay (Wellington) 14.28.08.
Men's two-day individual: 1. Brendon Vercoe (Chch) 12.49.26; 2. Byron Munro (Chch) 13.06.59; 3. Daniel Murtagh (Chch) 13.09.12; 4. Rob Nesbitt (Methven) 13.21.07; 5. Dean Hudson (Hunterville) 13.41.10.
Women's two-day individual: 1. Fiona Dowling (Ireland) 13.57.15; 2. Hilary Totty (Chch) 14.34.44; 3. Hollie Woodhouse (Chch) 14.50.27; 4. Laura Thomas (Chch) 14.51.47; 5. Anna Jenkins (United Kingdom) 15.01.51.