by Jamie Troughton
Mount Maunganui’s champion surf lifesavers have created more history, taking their club to the national pool rescue title in Auckland over the weekend.
Mount won the Paul Kent Memorial Trophy – testing the swimming and pool-rescue skills of nearly 600 athletes from 33 New Zealand clubs – for the first time, dominating the three-day carnival and finishing with 127 points. That put them 40 points clear of second-placed Mairangi Bay, with defending champions Papamoa third on 81.
It comes just seven months after Mount’s incredible win at the beach nationals in Gisborne, where they stormed to their third consecutive overall points win and held aloft the Alan Gardner Trophy for the sixth time in the past nine years.
Their weekend win means they are the first club in history to hold both the beach and pool-based national titles and coach John Bryant was understandably jubilant.
“This is a really proud moment for the club and a pretty sweet moment in my coaching career,” Bryant said. “To have those two trophies sitting side-by-side in the clubroom is unheard of and it’s something all our athletes can cherish. It shows them just what can be achieved with hard work and it’s pretty reassuring to the general public that their beaches are patrolled by some of the best in the business.”
Young and old contributed to the win, with 14-year-old Lochlainn O’Connor picking up 10 medals – five gold and five silver – and national records in the 100m rescue medley, 50m swim with fins and 4x25m manikin relay. His 16-year-old teammate Libby Bradley also nabbed a New Zealand record in the 100m rescue medley, with her 1.19.69 time taking nearly 2secs out of the old mark, and adding gold in the 200 obstacles swim and bronze in the 50 manikin carry and 100 manikin carry with fins.
Open star Adam Simpson, after a breakthrough season on the beach with national championship medals in the ironman, run-swim-run and surf race, continued his progress with victory on the 100m manikin tow, heading off New Zealand team members Steve Kent and Chris Dawson.
“Spindles (Bryant) and I talked after pool champs last year about really making it a focus for the winter season and we had a long build-up that started back back in May,” Simpson said. “We’ve had a few more opportunities to race this season, going to the Northern Region pool champs and over to the Australian nationals with the New Zealand squad, and that made claiming my first individual national title pretty special, after having learned a lot from Steve Kent and other open squad members. It was pretty epic to take the win and know that I can compete with the guys that I look up to.”
A big contingent of Mount masters athletes also won plaudits for their poolside efforts, keeping the competition on schedule by helping with even safety and logistics.
Bradley, a star age-group swimmer for the Greerton Swim Club, said the Mount team spirit provided an amazing lift throughout the weekend.
“It was great to come out of the pool and be greeted by excited and supporting teammates,” she said. “It really added to the buzz.”
O’Connor, meanwhile, is excited to get the chance to take his pool form onto the sand for the upcoming season.
“One of my favourite sayings is ‘hard work always pays off’ and there was certainly a lot of hard work going into the weekend from the whole squad,” O’Connor said. “It’s great to see if paying off and now we’re keen to work equally hard on the beach this summer.”
His performances over the weekend have also seen O’Connor added to the New Zealand Youth Squad, alongside Oscar Williams (Whangamata), Jenna Barrett (New Plymouth Old Boys), Alaynah Bettany (Lyall Bay) and Jessica Blakeman (Midway). Papamoa’s Jacob Hales was added to the New Zealand open squad after a strong performance in the under-19 agegroup.
Final points: Mount Maunganui 127, Mairangi Bay 87, Papamoa 81, Waikanae 80.5, Lyall Bay 80, Piha 55, Midway 54, Red Beach 50, St Clair 45, Orewa 39, Whangamata 29, Sumner 19, East End 16, Wainui 15, Whakantane 14, Maranui 13.5, Titahi Bay 12, Fitzroy 11, New Plymouth Old Boys 8, Otaki 8, Omanu 5, Muriwai 3, Waikuku 2, Westshore 2, Worser Bay 1.