27 June 2011
NSW Cross Country Championships Review
Clark and Carter – NSW’s best off road
The 114th NSW Cross Country Championships at Nowra featured some fascination duals and standout individual performances. Two athletes, Milly Cark (Bankstown) and Courtney Carter (Randwick Botany) who previously lived interstate, but now call Sydney home were crowned 2011 NSW Cross County champions.
The men’s 12km event was run over three laps of the full 4km circuit, arguably the hilliest cross country course in Australia. From the gun, Harry Summers (Randwick Botany) was in the lead and over the first 2km held a comfortable margin. He was so joined by Carter and James Nipperess (Sydney Uni) who continued to run as a pack for the next 4km. Around the 7km mark, training partners from the Ken Green stable, Nipperess and Carter, started to open up a gap over Summers. At the bridge on the return journey Summers called it a day leaving former Ken Green squad member Russell Dessaix-Chin (Sydney University) in third place.
``We let Harry go early and then Carter and I worked together,’’ Niperess said. ``After half-way the pace was really on.’’
“At the start of the race I wasn’t feeling that well, but the more you hang in sometimes the easier it gets,” Carter said.
“I was lucky enough to have Nipper there. It helps as you feel very comfortable running with someone you know.’’
Carter and Nipperess stretched away from the field as they ran side-by-side for the next kilometre, but nearing the start/finish line with a lap to go, Carter made his move and gradually increased his lead over the last 4km, eventually winning in 38:26, 46 seconds ahead of Dessaix-Chin, who had only returned to Australia on Wednesday, after a training stint in Spain with a group of triathletes.
“I’m pretty happy, I guess,” Carter said.
“I’d say it was the best race I’ve run. It was a really good field. Nipper is running well, Harry going well too. Ethan Hayward was over from Perth. So it was a good field and tough course.
``I spoke to Jeff Hunt this morning and he said if you run under 39 you’re running well. So I was pleased when I crossed the line and I saw the clock at 38 something.”
Carter gave himself the best chance for a good performance with a professional preparation.
“I arrived here a night early to prepare really well. I was fourth here last year, so this year I made a point of looking at every point on the course.
“Two months ago I wasn’t running too well and trying to figure out what to do, so I sat down with Greenie and decided to give Gold Coast a miss and work hard and try to run well in cross country. “
Nipperess was also pleased with his result.
“I needed to have a good hit out,” he said.
“Ken wanted me to do this long stuff although I’m training for 1500m. We really believe in the strong aerobic stuff and that I’d be better for it.
“I was beaten on the day, but I did the best I could. It was one of my better races. I’ve gone all right over cross country over the years, although it is probably not my strongest, but I still enjoy it and I still keep coming back.
“I’d like to win this race in the future, but today wasn’t my day, but in the next few years I’d like to get a plate.”
In the near future the paths of Carter and Nipperess take a vastly different direction.
Nipperess travels to Europe in three week to prepare for the World University Games.
“I did a good track session last Thursday and can’t wait to get to Shenzhen,” he said. At Shenshen he will contest the 1500m in his first Australian team respresentation.
But for Carter it will be more of the same, as he sets his sights on the National Cross Country Championships.
“The cross has always been an emphasis for me. When I was back in Perth with Ray Boyd we would run the championships, not the roads,’’ he said.
“With a few guys away at World Championships there should be a chance to improve on my sixth place last year.
“I just need to keep getting stronger and doing the right things and listening to my coach. I‘d like to be in the top 3 , but what happens on the day, happens on the day.”
Nipperess led his Sydney University Club to a strong team win with all four team members finishing in the top-15. He was joined on the victory dais by Dessaix-Chin, David Mulvee and Jack Colreavy. Country clubs were well represented with five of the top-11 place getters. Mingara, who placed fourth, eighth and 10nth could have vyed for the team title with a fourth team member. Of note was the performance by Mingara’s Tim Page, a Paralympics World Championship 1500m silver medallist, who placed seventh.
Women’s 8km championship
The women’s race over 8km included four of the top-6 from the 2010 race, including silver medallist Brooke Simpson (Sutherland), who was briefly back in Australia from her studies in the US.
Fifth place getter in 2010 and one of the race favourites Milly Clark, started conservatively and was way back in 10th as they went down the ‘big dipper’ on the first occasion.
“I think there is a lot to say about how valuable experience is,” Clark said after the event.
“I ran that course for the first time last year and went out way too hard and died after attempting the hill the first time. This time around I would like to think I ran a little 'smarter'.
“I sat behind a few girls going up the hill for the first time and then figured I only had to do that once more so I made a move after we were up it.”
By the 2.5km mark Clark was comfortably in the lead with Joanne Crackett (Sydney Pacific) in second. A pack of four followed including Simpson, Ellie O’Kane (Victoria) and masters athletes Jenny Wickham (Sydney Striders) and Angela Williams (Hills).
At the 5km mark, with Clark well ahead, the Sydney Striders team mates Wickham and Joanne Crackett were in a second place pack along with O’Kane, while Simpson had dropped back to fifth. But the second big hill, at the back of the course, would again take its toll as the second place pack broke up with Whickham forging ahead of O’Kane and Crackett dropping back. With 2km to go the final places were already determined. Clark went on for a one minute victory in 30:20, with O’Kane moving into second (31:21). Third across the line was super master, Jenny Wickham in the tremendous time of 31:29. Next were Crackett (31:43) and Simpson (32:05). Clark’s winning time compared favorably to UTS Norths’ Eliza Stewart’s 2010 winning time of 30:47.
``Call me crazy, but I actually really enjoyed the whole race and experience,’’ Clark said.
“ I think it goes without saying that the course is one of the most challenging that runners will come across and I find it funny that no matter who you are, how much experience you have, how old you are, male or female - at the end of the race everyone will ask "how'd you go on the hill? It’s tough regardless - and while I was running up there yesterday I just kept thinking - I swear I could power walk this faster. Next year I want to bring my hiking boots and poles to go up that again.’’
Clark, who moved to Sydney from Tasmania two years ago, to study nutrition at Sydney University has a genuine liking of the Willandra course.
“What I think is the best part of this course is how spectator friendly it is,’’ she said. ``It makes such a difference when you have support from people standing around the course and I really love hearing the odd random name call while I am running around. I guess what I thought about as I lined up on the start was - well that hill is there and isn't going anywhere, so I may as well just have some fun with it - surely that's why everyone was there right? Ha ha.”
The Nowra Club hosted the championships on the Gibb family’s Willaranda property, west of the township and 2 1/2 hours south of Sydney.
Athletes enjoyed superb winter conditions with clear skies and temperatures around 20 degrees well into the afternoon. The course was dry and fast.
``A number of athletes, in recent weeks, have clocked personal bests over the course,’’ Rod Gibb, race director and owner of the property, said. Rob, his wife Jan, their family and the Nowra club spend countless hours preparing the course and site which hosts many cross country events each year. Over many years of hosting state and national championships, they have gradually developed infrastructure to support every event very successfully.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Milly Clark (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)