Ben Cochrane claimed the biggest scalp of his fledgling ironman career on his home beach today, as surf lifesaving’s Omanu Day of Champions produced a procession of gripping finishes.
Cochrane upset clubmate and New Zealand team star Max Beattie in the feature Ian Porteous Memorial ironman, with the 18-year-old out-sprinting his older rival in the final few metros.
Even he could see the irony of it too – Cochrane has spent the last three summers living and training with Beattie at the Northcliffe club on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“I feel really bad – sorry Max,” the New Zealand under-19 ironman champion said. “It’s hard to beat someone who’s given you so much knowledge – I definitely look up to him and he’s taught me everything I know.”
It was obvious Beattie had taught him a little too much – Cochrane’s dismount off the final board leg was dripping with experience, after catching his front-running clubmate during the ski leg on the distinctive M-shaped ironman course.
“Traditionally board has been my weak leg but over at Northcliffe, everything’s gone a lot better and we do a lot of transition work. I saw Max trip slightly as we were coming into the beach so I stayed on my board until it hit the sand.”
Another teenager, Mount Maunganui’s Kane Sefton, finished third.
The ironwoman final at the Parmco-sponsored carnival was even closer, with a video replay needed to separate New Zealand stars Devon Halligan and Danielle McKenzie, who have both been competing on the lucrative Kellogg’s series in Australia this summer.
While Mairangi Bay’s McKenzie finished 13th in the series, a spot above Halligan, the Midway club member gained a small measure of revenge with her final, desperate dive over the line helping sealing victory today.
“Dani and I have been racing each other in the Kellogg’s all season so to do another M-shaped course together was cool,” New Zealand title-holder Halligan said. “We had three sprints up the beach together and I managed to get two of them, so we’re really close and nationals is going to be very interesting in March.”
Between them, the pair dominated the four finals, with Halligan claiming the iron and ski finals and McKenzie adding the board race title to a surprise win in the surf race.
“I didn’t really want to do a surf race today but I’ve been doing a few longer swims lately and it suited me with the long wade,” McKenzie said. “Swimming is so crucial on the series and it’s still my weakest leg but I’ve worked really hard on it all through winter and I’ve picked up some good body-surfing skills recently which has really helped.”
Papamoa’s Ben Johnston claimed the men’s board race final, leading home a trio of under-19 athletes, with Sefton just pipped for second and another Papamoa athlete, Scott Cowdrey, third. Cowdrey also finished third in the ski race final, which was won by Mount Maunganui’s Sam Shergold in a sprint with national kayaking representative Scott Bicknell (Ocean Beach Kiwi).
Waihi Beach also tasted success, with club coach George Haynes winning the surf race from Sefton and Johnston.
The Day of Champions featured $7000 in prizemoney, with $1000 each for the ironman and ironwoman winners, and provided the perfect lead-in into next week’s Eastern Region championships in Mount Maunganui.
The Ian Porteous Memorial Ironman trophy is named for the former Omanu clubbie of the same name, who died, aged just 44, the day before the club’s annual long-distance ironman race 19 years ago.
Surf race: Danielle McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 1, Jessica Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2, Amy Barron (Mt Maunganui) 3. Board race: Danielle McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 1, Devon Halligan (Northcliffe) 2, Amy Barron (Mt Maunganui) 3. Ski race: Devon Halligan (Northcliffe) 1, Danielle McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 2, Rachael Dodwell (Mairangi Bay) 3.
Ironwoman: Devon Halligan (Northcliffe) 1, Danielle McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 2, Amy Barron (Mt Maunganui) 3.
Surf race: George Haynes (Waihi) 1, Kane Sefton (Mt Maunganui) 2, Ben Johnston (Papamoa) 3. Board race: Ben Johnston (Papamoa) 1, Kane Sefton (Mt Maunganui) 2, Scott Cowdrey (Papamoa) 3. Ski race: Sam Shergold (Mt Maunganui) 1, Scott Bicknell (Ocean Beach Kiwi) 2, Scott Cowdrey (Papamoa) 3.
Ian Porteous Memorial Ironman: Ben Cochrane (Omanu) 1, Max Beattie (Omanu) 2, Kane Sefton (Mt Maunganui) 3.