Davidson cries after winning NZ title at last

HEAVY TRACK: Andrew Davidson negotiates muddy conditions during the New Zealand Cross-Country championships at Halswell Quarry in Christchurch on Saturday.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press
HEAVY TRACK: Andrew Davidson negotiates muddy conditions during the New Zealand Cross-Country championships at Halswell Quarry in Christchurch on Saturday.

A string of near misses on the national stage left Andrew Davidson in tears when he finally realised his dream of winning the New Zealand cross-country title.

In a dramatic finish at the Halswell Quarry Park in Christchurch on Saturday, the Christchurch doctor finished second in the senior men's race, but did enough to win the national spoils and earn a place at next year's world championships in Poland.

Australian Timothy Rowe trailed Davidson for much of the 12-kilometre course, but caught the Kiwi in the finishing chute and snared first place and the Oceania title when he surged past in the final 100 metres.

It proved a good day for the Australian team with Melinda Vernon earlier grabbing the women's Oceania title ahead of Cantabrian Fiona Crombie.

An emotional Davidson was, however, delighted to bag the national spoils, as he fought back tears after the draining race.

Having controlled much of the second half of the race, Davidson said he was aware of someone closing in on him, but was concerned it was Aucklander Edwin Henshaw on his shoulder, mowing him down at the finish line. Henshaw finished third.

"My primary goal was to win the national title," Davidson said. "When I look back in the programme at the names who have won it before it's just a who's who so I'm extremely over the moon.

"It was incredibly important to me which is why I shed a few tears at the end which I didn't see coming."

Rowe said it was a "tough" course which had taken its toll on his body.

"Going into 6km I felt I was going off the pace a bit so I just decided to run my own race."

He kept Davidson and Rowan Hooper in his sights despite the Canterbury duo making another surge at the 8km mark.

"I knew I had an all right kick, I just had to get within striking distance which is what I did and went for it."

Meanwhile, Vernon was delighted to win on her first look at the 8km course at the quarry in what proved a tough duel with Crombie.

"I tried to keep patient," she said. "Because I'm hearing impaired I find it really hard to stay patient because I can't hear the external distractions to keep me calm."

Vernon made her move 500m into the last lap and grabbed the initiative on the final climb up a hill, opening a 20m gap which she held to the end. Canterbury's Kellie Palmer was third.

Crombie was pleased with her performance in a discipline she is not familiar with.

"I'm not used to the cross-country and tend to find it a bit of a slog but I found that really enjoyable and was able to push myself and push the pace."

She had already won the Canterbury title this season.

Crombie has earned a spot at next year's world championships, but is likely to miss the event with her focus on the track and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

"It's right in the middle of our track season and we have to do nationals to qualify for Com Games so that is my priority."

The Press