Max Beattie claimed his first Mount Monster title in dramatic fashion today, out-sprinting defending champion Cory Taylor up the beach at the end of the 25km surf lifesaving endurance race in Mount Maunganui.
Locked together through more than two hours of slow burn in the four-leg coastal epic, Beattie called in his fast-twitch fibres to do the job in the home stretch, claiming the win by less than a second.
But the drama wasn’t over then either – after crossing the line, Beattie (Omanu) and Midway’s Taylor had an anxious 5min penalty to sit through after failing to round a flag during the swim leg. Although 17-year-old Gisborne schoolboy Matt Scott finished inside the 5mins, the next open male was Mount local Sam Shergold, an agonising 32secs adrift of Beattie and Taylor’s 2hrs 23mins 07sec time.
“For a 25km race to end up in a sprint finish is pretty ridiculous,” 22-year-old Beattie mused. “Not only are Cory and I really good mates but we’re training partners three times a day, six times a week and we know each other’s strengths inside and out. That 5min penalty was definitely in the back of our mind going into the board leg and we pushed the pace as much as we could and I just had enough to get him on the line.”
Piha’s Kirsty Wannan broke through for her first big win in the women’s race, though the 22-year-old was harassed all the way by her 16-year-old clubmate Hannah Williams. Wannan finished in 2hrs 37mins 33secs, with Williams the second female across the line in 2:39.01.
“I felt her hunting the whole way and felt that target on my back,” Wannan said. “She’s so young and she’s got energy to burn and is definitely one to watch out for in future.”
Although overshadowed by the sprint finish, the performance of younger athletes provided the talking point as nearly 250 competitors took part in the endurance race, battling a testing 1m swell and rising sea breezes.
Papamoa 18-year-old Mason Bryant was perhaps the unluckiest athlete, launching a spectacular solo charge over the opening 5km beach run. He led the field in the jump off Moturiki Island’s blowhole too, before falling victim to the same flag-miss which hit Beattie and Taylor. Swallowed up in the ski leg, Bryant eventually finished third overall, though was relegated to sixth with the time penalty.
When Taylor won the inaugural title last year, he used a withering ski leg to take control but this year, there was no escaping a tenacious Beattie.
“When we headed out on the board together, we were joking about a sprint finish but I think we knew that it was what it would come down to,” Taylor said. “Statistically, he’s had the better of me in sprints but I nearly got a wave into the beach which would’ve put me in front. It was good for the crowd though and it was pretty exciting running up the beach after giving all you’ve got.”
His Midway teammate Scott, heading into his final year at Gisborne’s Campion College, made up a heap of ground in the swim leg, with the national agegroup freestyle champion climbing into fourth. He chose to race in the under-19 division, meaning he didn’t qualify for the $2000 first prize in the open ranks, although was satisfied with getting one over Taylor as the fastest official time of the day in 2:22.47.
“I’ll at least have bragging rights, even if I can’t get the money,” Scott said. “Cory will be coming back to training for the next couple of weeks and I’ll have that over him for a little while at least!”
Wannan, meanwhile, had a slight tactical advantage, after racing in a team last year. Coached by Piha’s former Olympian Steve Ferguson, she concreted on maintaining a solid pace all the way through.
“I didn’t want to push too fast, too early – it’s easy to do when you’re feeling fresh and good,” Wannan said. “Last year, I just did the run and swim in a team but this year I really had to think about how I was going to race and not push too hard. We’ve got a really good training group led by Steve, who pushes us hard. We’ve changed the way we think about our training, to adapt that into our racing.”
Mount Maunganui’s Katie Wilson was the third female across the line, followed by Grace Kaihau (Maroochydore) and another Piha Olympian, Teneale Hatton, who finished in 2:42.19.
Open: Max Beattie (Omanu) 2:23.07 1, Cory Taylor (Midway) 2:23.07 2, Sam Shergold (Mt Maunganui) 2:23.39 3, Adam Simpson (Mt Maunganui) 2:26.42 4, Bjorn Battaerd (Whangamata) 2:27.10 5, Mason Bryant (Papamoa) 2:27.44 6, Adrien Lambolez (Mt Maunganui) 2:32.13 7, Lewis Rosewell (Mt Maunganui) 2:32.16 8, Hamish Treanor (Mt Maunganui) 2:34.53 9, Hayden Reardon (Mt Maunganui) 2:36.48 10.
Under 19: Matthew Scott (Midway) 2:22.47 1, Kane Sefton (Mt Maunganui) 2:26.16 2, James Scott (Orewa) 2:26.32 3, Hamish Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2:26.34 4, Andrew Trembath (St Clair) 2:26.49 5.
Open: Kirsty Wannan (Piha) 2:37.33 1, Katie Wilson (Mt Maunganui) 2:40.08 2, Grace Kaihau (Maroochydore) 2:40.33 3, Teneale Hatton (Piha) 2:42.19 4, Nivana Johnson (Muriwai) 3:11.13 5.
Under 19: Hannah Williams (Piha) 2:39.01 1, Amy Barron (Mt Maunganui) 2:47.10 2, Maia Bryant (Papamoa) 2:56.15 3, Sarah Lockwood (Red Beach) 3:17.18 4.