28 June 2011
NSW Cross Country Championships Review – Masters events
Wickham and Basman the masters of Willandra
Although she is a masters athlete, Jenny Wickham (Sydney Striders) clocked the second fastest time of the day among all women’s competitors. Wickham, 36, was second in the combined Open and Masters women’s 8km race, clocking a tremendous time of 31:29, beating another super masters athlete, Angela Williams (Hills), by nearly a minute in the 35-39 years division.
“I really enjoy the cross country at Nowra. It is a great event,” Wickham said.
“The course was pretty tough, with a couple of really challenging hills, but I was happy with the run. I took it out pretty easy for the first couple of kilometres, which I think helped me over the second lap. I quite like going up hills, so although it was tough, it was a good course for me.“
Wickham was not the only member of her family climbing the hills of the Willandra course.
“My husband and three of my four kids also ran, making it a great family event,’’ she said.
Williams also took home a gold medal as she led home her Hills District club to a team title.
In the men’s masters competition, Richard Roberts (Asics Wests) competing in the 40-44 years division, clocked the day’s fastest time by a masters competitor, running 43:29 for the demanding 12km event. Roberts, won by more than a minute from former three-time NSW open state champion, Paul Arthur (St George) who ran 44:43. Roberts’ performance was seven seconds faster than he clocked to win the 2010 title and it was his fourth consecutive win in the 40+ years division. In 2008, aged 40, Roberts, clocked 41:49 to place fifth overall. In 2009 he clocked 42:19 and 43:36 last year.
“It was a great day down at Nowra,” Roberts said.
“I love the venue. I have been going back there for many years. It is a true cross country course. Although I’m not as fit as I have been in years gone by, I still enjoy the challenge and was pleased to win my fourth men’s 40+ in a row. Hopefully I can complete five in a row next year.”
A big improver in recent years has been Robyn Basman (Illawong) who won the women’s 50-54 age division 8km race by more than four minutes in the impressive time of 34:16. Basman would have won the 45-49 age and placed a close second in the 40-44 age group.
"I wore cross country spikes to help me up the hill and I felt more confident as I had sprained my ankle recently so I didn't want to trip or slip,” Basman said.
“I didn't want to kill myself on the hill. Just tried to keep my breathing steady, just as my coach, Jim Owens advised and if I got too puffy to ease back so I don't waste too much energy.
Then I could pick the pace up a bit after the hill.”
Surprisingly Basman was not running as fast as she could.
“I raced pretty easy as I knew I was out in front in my age group and had the Gold Coast Half Marathon coming up next weekend. When I saw the finish line, I thought, I should have turned it on a bit earlier, but then my body would have suffered more afterwards and I am more than happy with my time and my gold medal."
But the story behind Basman is an athlete who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years, inspired by a rival. On Saturday, Basman ran a personal best on the Nowra course by more than seven minutes and clocked a faster time than the person who inspired her to start taking running seriously.
“Last time I ran that course was in 2009 with a time of 41:35 when ACT’s Kathy Southgate W50-54 ran it in 34:52. When I watched her get presented with her gold medal, I thought I would love to be as good a runner as her. I later met her at the World Masters that same year and she encouraged me to start training. So winning these things has only been a fairly new thing for me.”
Another standout performer was Bankstown’s Gina Jessop who clocked 28:24 to claim the 55-59 years 6km title. For Jessop is was a big improvement on her bronze medal winning performance last year when she ran 30:02.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Margaret Beardslee and Robyn Basman (courtesy of David Tarbotton)