Marlborough runner Billy Hebberd produced the fastest time on the first leg at the QC Relay. Photo: Peter Jones.

Nelson runners take QC Relay honours again

The Athletics Nelson junior men’s team took out the annual Queen Charlotte Relay title in comprehensive fashion on Saturday afternoon.

The team of Janek Manderson, Fletcher Pickworth, Luke Clatworthy, Matt Bowen and Ben Baker covered the five legs of the twisting course from Picton to Havelock in a sharp time of two hours, three minutes 20 seconds.

They finished well clear of the second-placed Beavertown Hopefuls combination, comprising Billy Hebberd, Sophie Lee, George Varney, Marty Moran and Ian Thomas, who completed the course in 2.16.45.

Third was the Mad Dogs combination, a Picton-based crew of Karlos Tautari, Stu Barnes, Mark Hodren, Henry Evans and Hayden Gaudin, who came home in 2.22.43.

Three members of the winning team turned in fastest leg times. Pickworth was fastest on the second leg, Bowen took the honours on leg four while Baker completed his team’s victory with the quickest time over the final leg from Moenui to Havelock.

Hebberd turned in the quickest time on leg one while Stephen Blackwell, winner of the Woodbourne half and Tussock Run covered the third leg fastest.

The long-standing event began in 1982 and has been contested annually without a break.


Team placings 

Senior men: Transition Coaching 2:22:50, Wire Runners 2:23:11.

Senior women: Speedplay Green Stripes 2:43:37, Kfit Kruiser 3:05:19.

Veteran men: Old Eggs For Fast Legs 2:32:11, We run better than the Government 2:52:13, That 70’s team 3:05:23.

Veteran women: Waimea Vet A 2:42:34, Garden Tavern Runners Club 3:00:06, Waimea Team Buddies 3:11:40.

Junior men: Athletics Nelson Junior Men 2:03:20.

Junior women: Athletics Nelson Junior Women 2:39:49, Marlborough Harriers Junior Women 3:07:32.

Social: Beavertown Hopefuls 2:16:45, Mad Dogs 2:22:43, Marlborough Harrier Social 2:29:55.

Walkers: Waimea Walking Team 4:06:06, Locked Knees 4:08:58, Sharp Walkers 4:59:00.


Leg placings

Leg one

Senior Men Chase Edmonds 0:24:21; Senior Women Grace Wallace 0:28:31; Veteran Men Graeme Sellars 0:24:45; Veteran Women Klaartje Von Schier 0:22:44; Junior Men Janek Manderson 0:21:40; Junior Women Iris Meffan 0:25:13; Social Billy Hebberd 0:20:58; Walkers Jim Kerse 0:39:09

Leg two

SM Gus Marfell 0:30:32; SW Andrea Livingston 0:41:27; VM Stuart Cottam 0:34:19; VW Klaartje Von Schie 0:35:11; JM Fletcher Pickworth 0:28:33; JW Lucy Martin 0:38:03; Social Robbie Barnes 0:32:01; Walkers Peter Hague 0:52:51.

Leg three

SM Fergus Greer 0:30:29; SW Laura Smidt 0:32:38; VM Ian Carter 0:34:42; VW Emma Marsden 0:40:10; JM Luke Clatworthy 0:27:51; JW Ella Donald 0:36:04; Social Stephen Blackwell 0:27:39; Walkers Daryl Nish 0:55:18.

Leg four

SM Billy Hebberd 0:24:22; SW Laura Smidt 0:28:08; VM Derek Shaw 0:28:08; VW Fiona Lees 0:30:09; JM Matt Bowen 0:22:12; JW Heidi Stephens 0:29:18; Social Marty Moran 0:26:43; Walkers Ian Courtenay 0:40:12.

Leg five

SM Dakoda Jones 0:26:03; SW Jo Dwyer 0:32:32; VM Alistair Cotterill 0:30:17; VW Tania Gardner 0:30:40; JM Ben Baker 0:23:04; JW Lois Braukal 0:28:20; Social Ian Thomas 0:24:59; Walkers Gillian McDougal 0:50:10.

Mt Vernon Grand Traverse winners, and record-setters, Megan Graham and George Varney. Photo: Peter Jones.

Records tumble in Mt Vernon run

The province’s leading mountain runners were in record-breaking form on Sunday.

Several race records were shattered during the annual Mt Vernon Grand Traverse, contested in the Wither Hills, south of Blenheim.

Both the previous male and female marks over the undulating 18km Grand Traverse course were broken.

Marlborough Boys’ College student George Varney, 18, set a new time of one hour 12 minutes and five seconds, breaking the previous overall course record of 1.13.24, set by Jeremy McKenzie in 2012.

Megan Graham was also in top form, breaking her own record in the female category with a time of 1.21.37. She set the previous mark of 1.23.04 in 2016.

MGC student Lucy Harman underlined her running abilities by breaking the female record in the 11km Fun Run/Walk. The 16-year-old’s time of 58.50 eclipsed the previous mark of 59.43 set by Emily Marfell last year.

The men’s section and overall winner was Blenheim’s Phil Taylor in 50.33.

Nine-year-old Katherine de Zwart won the 2km Kids Challenge event, prevailing in a close finish with 10-year-old Katie Pugh.

Varney, who also won last year, was pleased to claim the race record and also happy to enjoy a well-earned ice cream immediately afterwards, especially given his post-event problems of the previous year.

After injuring an ankle on the final stages of the run, Varney was whisked straight away to Wairau Hospital.

“I reckon I could have got the record last year but I injured myself with about 5ks to go … so I was a bit slower. I ended up being out for about two months after that.”

Nine-year-old Katherine de Zwart won the 2km Kids Challenge event

There were no such dramas for Varney on Sunday though as he led all the way, hanging on for a comfortable win over Sam Hansby, winner in 2015 and 2016 who also broke the previous record with a time of 1.13.23, although Varney admitted he had a few doubts in the early stages about his race plan.

“I thought I went a bit hard at the start,” he said. “I hit a massive wall but just pushed through it … the second runner was closing in on me so I hung in there.

“[Sam] was right on my tail most of the way, it was a good race.

“A couple of times on those last few hills, they are just so steep, I felt like walking. It was so hard to push through, but now I am just so glad I did … it was so worth it.”

Graham admitted she had a love/hate relationship with the gruelling course, knowing the pain is going to come, but relishing the challenge.

“That hurt like hell,” she said. “You think you are on the downhill and then you realise you have the whole Mapp Track to go around.

“I feel pretty good. My running feels strong at the moment, maybe having a baby has made me tougher out there … I run a lot with the [baby] buggy so I feel light in this sort of event, running without the buggy.”

Graham says he was happy to break her record, suggesting she wasn’t chasing a new mark but merely set out to enjoy the run and, “it just came off”.

Next up for the former double NZ women’s squash champion is a return to the national squash scene. She will take on the nation’s best at the NZ champs to be staged in Auckland during late June.


18km Grand Traverse (76 entries)

Overall: 1 George Varney 1.12.05 (new record), 2 Sam Hansby 1.13.23, 3 Harry Carrick 1.20.18.

Women: 1 Megan Graham 1.21.37 (fifth overall – new record), 2 Katie Malthus 1.36.20, 3 Janette Landers 1.40.36.

11km Fun Run/Walk (66 entries)

Overall: 1 Philip Taylor 50.33, 2 Lucan Orchard 56.31, 3 Lucy Harman 58.50 (new record).

2km Kids Challenge

1 Katherine de Zwart 9.36, 2 Katie Pugh 9.36, 3 Cashel King 10.32.

Young athlete racing along nicely

Marlborough athlete Lucy Harman has come a very long way since her first competitive outing.

The 16-year-old Marlborough Girls’ College Year 11 student is rapidly working her way up the national track and field middle distance rankings, while also claiming cross country titles in the top of the south.

However, she laughingly recalls her first competitive foray out of Marlborough. As an 11-year-old member of the Marlborough Children’s Athletics Club [MCAC] she travelled to Nelson with the team for an annual meet.

Having only run on grass tracks at home, Lucy was unprepared for the artificial surface at Saxton Field and had brought no shoes with her.

On a scorching hot day she ran in the 800m and ended up with badly-blistered feet. However, she then lined up for the 1500m, this time in her socks. The starter asked if she was going to put on some shoes to which she replied, “I don’t have any with me”.

She duly ran the race, which she won, as she did the 800m, showing the talent and determination that marked her down as an athlete to watch.

“That’s probably where it all started,” said Lucy, who admitted the red marks stained on her socks from the track were a reminder of that day for quite some time.

She followed that effort with a silver medal at the Colgate Games as a 12-year-old, recalling the “awesome feeling of being on the podium was something she wanted to experience again”.

And there have been no shortage of podium finishes for the youngster since then, her recent summer filled with success on the track.

After breaking records at the MGC sports, she claimed the under-16 800 and 1500m double at the Tasman champs and was second in both events at the 2019 South Island schools, setting a PB of 2 minutes 17 seconds in the 800m.

At a higher level, she finished 12th overall in the under-18 800m at the track and field nationals in March, then eighth in the final of the under-18 1500m with an eight-second personal best of 4.51, ranking her 12th nationwide. She also claimed an 800m fifth in the junior section at the NZ schools champs.

During the winter there is cross country to keep her occupied and in late May she won the Tasman senior girls title over 4km at Rabbit Island.

In fact, it was after winning the Marlborough primary schools cross country as a year six student that Lucy “caught the [running] bug”.

Her success prompted her to train a bit harder and when she joined the MCAC she realized that athletics “was what I want to do … so it just carried on from there”.

For the past 18 months Lucy has been trained by Nelson-based coach Greg Lautenslager who she “bumped into” at the Queen Charlotte Relay, a family friend suggesting “if you want a coach he is the guy to go to”. The partnership has worked well, Lautenslager providing training advice and race tactics for his young charge.

His programmes, based around Arthur Lydiard ‘s philosophies, have her doing five to six sessions a week during track season, mixing long runs with sprint training. During the winter she manages around five runs a week, mixing her time with the demands of playing for the MGC Year 11 netball team. She also occasionally joins in with local triathlon coach Mark Grammer’s running squad.

“Winter training is where you do a lot of the hard work and summer is where you get the chance to show it off on the track. National secondary schools [athletic champs] are at the very start of the season so you have to do a lot of work over the winter if you want to perform well there,” she explained.

And it is on the track that Lucy sees her future. She enjoys her on-going rivalry with a couple of the South Island’s best middle distance runners, Rosie Trotter, who pipped her by 0.3 seconds in the 1500m at the South Island champs, and fellow Christchurch athlete Chloe Hughes.

“It’s great going to a meet and knowing they will be there and we will have such a good rivalry … that’s another great thing about athletics, I have made friends all over the country now.”

She prefers the tactical battle of the 1500m event to the two-lap sprint of the 800m. “I love that side of [racing] so you are not just going out and running as hard as you can … with sprinting it just comes down to you, but over 1500m it’s more about racing other people.”

The time management required to balance a busy schedule of school work, sport and social life can be tough, Lucy admits. “With it getting dark so early now if I have to go for a 50-minute run I sometimes end up running with a torch to see where I am going. You have to be organized and use your time wisely.”

On Lucy’s immediate radar is the NZ schools cross country champs on June 15-16, followed by the usual track and field meets over the hotter months. She steps up to senior grade at the NZ schools champs, but is still racing in the under-18 grade at the NZ track and field champs so is keen to improve her previous placings.

Long-term she has ambitions of gaining a track scholarship to a college in the USA and competing on the highly-competitive scene in the States which, given her recent progress, seems a logical step – as long as she remembers to bring her shoes of course.

Sheat determined to get back in fast lane

Marlborough’s fastest woman has had to slow down – albeit temporarily.

Sprint ace Lucy Sheat, who claimed the national women’s 200m title in 2017-18 and represented her country at the World Junior Championships, has endured a frustrating 2018-19 season.

Over a year ago she began an on-going battle with a medical issue, which she is slowly getting under control, leaving her struggling to operate at the capacity required to compete at the top level.

Compounding the issue has been a geographical reshuffle, coupled with the added pressure of university study.

Earlier this year the 19-year-old moved from Nelson, where she shifted to be nearer her long-term coach Dennis Kale, to Dunedin, where she is completing her first year of study in Health Science, with a view to pursuing a degree in physiotherapy.

Consequently she is engaged in what she describes as a “bit of a balancing act”; getting to grips with the demands which come with being a first-year university student, recovering from her illness and a niggling foot injury, while trying to find time to stay on top of her sprint training.

She was only able to attend one athletics event this past season, a twilight meet in Nelson.

Sheat went to the national champs, but only as a supporter of the Tasman athletes chasing NZ titles, and admits it was a hard watch, seeing her regular rivals burning up the track without her being able to chase them down.

“It was crazy hard … I can recall standing there watching the 200m final and it was tough to not be on the track, but it was great to catch up with all the girls and watching how they are progressing and of course supporting the Tasman squad after time away, that was great fun.”

Although absent from the starting line this season, Sheat is adamant she still has plenty of unfinished business on the running track.

“I’m not giving [athletics] up, I’m definitely keeping it going.

“I plan to be fully healthy and ready to compete next season. At the moment it is a matter of keeping my health in check, keeping fit so that when I need to I can get stuck in again.

“It has been a struggle with the health issues and injuries but knowing that I am getting through it and I have time to get it sorted is really positive.”

Despite her current track and field setbacks, Sheat can see a silver lining, her enforced lay-off allowing her time and energy to kick start her university studies.

“It has definitely been a blessing in disguise,” she added.

“I think about all that has been going on and how that would have affected me throughout the busy season. I can see the benefit of having some time to myself out, to put my health and study first for a little bit.

“Just to get settled so I can come back stronger and better.”