Wreford wins national title
The mud was so thick at Saturday's national cross-country event that Timaru's Sam Wreford got stuck and fell over at one stage.
The 29-year-old recovered from his early fall to win the national title at Hamilton's Minogue Park. He still wanted more.
While he won the national crown, Wreford finished third in the race that doubled as an Oceania championship.
Kenyan Edwin Kaitany was first across the line in the 12,000m senior men's race in a time of 38 minutes, 54 seconds, 11sec ahead of Australian James Nipperess.
Wreford was a further 31sec behind the two, who were ineligible to win the New Zealand national title.
"It was a pretty solid race," he said. "[But] coming third overall is never the goal. Then again, a national title is pretty hard to come by and they're tough to win so I'm happy."
Wreford, the Christchurch marathon winner, had predicted Kaitany would be the man to beat and even the sodden conditions didn't make it easier to catch the Kenyan.
"It was very, very hard," he said of running in the mud and puddles.
"It was so tough my foot went into the ground at one stage and I couldn't pull it out and fell over."
That made it difficult to catch the lead bunch, but he eventually got there and held on to win the national title to go with his Otago, Canterbury and South Island cross-country crowns.
Christchurch's Nicki McFadzien finished third in the women's race behind Australian Celia Sullohern and Waikato's Mikayla Nielsen.
Nielsen, the sister of Olympic track cyclist Jaime Nielsen, won the national title as first Kiwi home, just six seconds ahead of McFadzien in the 8000m women's race.
Christchurch's Richard Bennett crossed the line to become a masters champion and has already had his sights set on next year.
For those who know the Papanui Toc H runner, that news will hardly be surprising - Bennett's win in Hamilton was the 47-year-old's sixth national title.
Bennett, running in the 45-49 class, finished third in the Masters grade for runners 35 and over.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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