It was one of the most dominant team performances in recent history but members of the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service team aren’t about to rest on their laurels after winning the national surf lifesaving championships recently.
The Mount collected the Alan Gardner Trophy – awarded to the top overall club – for the fifth time in in eight years after three days of competition at Whakatane’s Ohope Beach.
The Western Bay dominance of the sport was further emphasised by Papamoa, who finished a clear second, and Omanu, who picked up a clutch of key titles.
“It’s an ideal recipe for us, having two such strong, competitive clubs on the same stretch of coastline,” Mount coach John Bryant explained. “If we didn’t have Papamoa and Omanu pushing us so hard at a regional level, we might struggle when we got to the nationals but every time we line up, we know we have to be absolutely on our game just to get past our neighbors.”
Mount will now send two international teams away, one to the Australian championships in Perth at the end of the month and another big crew to September’s world championships in France.
But they’ll head overseas with their coach immensely satisfied, having finished on 176 points after the nationals, 77 points clear of Papamoa and boasting 25 national titles.
“That would be the most satisfying nationals performance I’ve been involved in,” Bryant explained. “The final result was particularly sweet after Saturday morning, where we had a few things not go our way in a number of races and it looked like we’d be hauled back into the chasing pack. We pulled together as a team and told each other not to worry about people coming from behind us on waves – that was out of our control – but to keep pushing hard at the front and our luck would turn. From that moment, we never looked back.”
Mount went on to pick up four of the six surf teams titles – with Papamoa grabbing the other two – three of the six board relays and three of the six taplin relays across under-16, under-19 and open agegroups.
Mount’s Olivia Eaton was voted the female athlete of the championship after the 16-year-old picked up both the open and under-16 women’s beach sprint titles.
Papamoa’s outstanding young talent was also on show, with the Papamoa board relay team of Scott Cowdrey, Ben Johnston and Danny Hart combining to win the under-19 crown, then backing up brilliantly against far more seasoned rivals to win the open men’s title.
Cowdrey and Mason Bryant, meanwhile, ended the six-year winning streak of clubmates Johnston and Hart by winning the under-19 board rescue, an event the latter pair have dominated since the under-12 agegroup.
Natalie Peat showcased her swimming talents, taking out both the under-19 and open women’s surf races, as Papamoa claimed 12 national titles in total.
If any event portrayed the Western Bay dominance best, however, it was the feature ironman, where local athletes combined to take home 11 of the 18 medals available.
Omanu’s Sam Pasley led home Mount’s Kane Sefton in the under-16 ironman, Mount’s Libby Bradley won the under-16 diamond lady, Katie Wilson (Mount) led home Peat and Jess Miller (Mount) in the under-19 ironwoman while Ben Cochrane (Omanu) completed another Western Bay trifecta in the under-19 men’s race, from Mount’s Cooper Halligan and Hamish Treanor.
Although Midway’s Cory Taylor and Devon Halligan took out the open titles, Max Beattie (Omanu) finished third in the men’s and Mount’s Flora Manciet was second in the women’s.
The surf lifesaving season, meanwhile, has one more big weekend of competition, with Papamoa sending a huge team up to the New Zealand IRB championships in Whangamata from March 21-23.