2015 National Road Relay Women's Preview
We look to have two teams that have cleared out from the bunch before the gun even sounds at the Sign of the Takahe on Christchurch’s Port Hills on Saturday morning. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some exciting racing as we often see significant changes of place throughout the Women’s race and past years have shown that the Women’s race always seems to produce a surprise or two in the leading teams.
Aside from the teams focus we could be in for a treat with the likes of Olympian Lucy van Dalen and recent World Champs Representatives Rosa Flanagan and Angela Petty having the potential to push close to a Lap record on the day.
University of Canterbury
A tough year in 2014 saw the UC ladies 45 minutes off the pace set by North Harbour Bays but with Angela Petty stepping up to run her first ever Road Relay for UC along with first-time starts in the Senior grade for National Junior 3000mSt Record holder Rosa Flanagan and National Junior 5000m Champion Gabrielle Gray they will start as firm favourites in 2015. The team will be held together by Nicki McFadzien and Alexandra Williams who have 11 UC Women’s Road Relay appearances between them. McFadzien is coming into fine form in 2015 with a recent 3rd place at the National 10km Road Champs in Tauranga. Also running well in Tauranga was Rachel Kingsford who earlier in 2015 ran a big PB over the ½ Marathon distance and will likely bring the team home on Lap 8, the lap she has run the fastest Women’s time for the past two years.
North Harbour Bays
Despite losing Commonwealth Medallist Nikki Hamblin and former WXC Representative Rebecca Foggarty, the two-time defending Champions have entered a formidable line-up. Rumours abound about the current form of several of the team, however, the 1-2-3 punch of Lydia O’Donnell, Annika Pfitzinger and Lucy van Dalen, who were 2nd, 4th and 5th at the recent National Road Champs, should keep the Bays Cougars team in the hunt on the longer laps. Former rower turned triathlete Leah Stanley could be valuable on the hilly course and with the return of Esther Keown and Lana van Hout from the 2014 winning team their depth should keep this a close battle all the way to the end. We’re likely to see some new lap allocations for the four returning runners but a fastest Lap 5 performance in 2014 should see O’Donnell as the go-to selection for the long lap again.
The 2014 silver medallists return a similar strength team but still lack the depth to challenge Bays and UC. Former National Road Champion Sarah Drought is returning from injury and looks like she will make up for the loss of triathlete Kate McIlroy from the 2014 team. Gabrielle O’Rourke and Vicki Humphries bring a wealth of experience to this team and with two of the quickest performances on Laps five and six last year we will likely see them lining up there again. Ayesha Shafi should fly down the hill on Lap seven again and rising Junior star Kelsey Forman should contribute a little more in 2015 following her breakthrough track season last Summer.
Hamilton Hawks and Hill City should be the best of the rest but they don’t look to have the depth to compete with the leading three teams. It’s unfortunate that no one will get to watch Kovo McDonald if she races down the hill on Lap 7 for Hamilton after she was the closest Senior Women to a lap record in 2014 and could very well go faster with some course knowledge this weekend. Sarah Murphy should also help the Hawks ladies to a solid performance on one of the longer legs while Shireen Crumpton will likely be the leading light for Hill City.
It could be a disappointing year for the Wellington Scottish Women who are the only Women’s team to have finished in the Top-5 for the past eight years straight. The absence of leading runners Tina Harris and Nicole Mitchell is a big loss and they will require good races across the team if they are to keep their Top-5 run going.
Other runners to watch include Emily Roughan (ACA), Shannon Leigh-Litt (NBO) and Alice Feslier-Holmes (WHAC 2).
1. University of Canterbury
2. North Harbour Bays
3. Wellington Harriers
4. Hamilton Hawks
5. Hill City
6. Wellington Scottish
7. Auckland City Athletics
8. New Brighton Olympic
9. Lake City Athletics
10. Wellington Harriers 2
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