2 Mar 2011"Simone and Cameron"
The 2XU Stroke & Stride Series now extends into its fifth month. While winning of these races is no easy thing; to win the series involves not only a generous dose of talent and speed but also determination and resolve. An athlete needs to be fit and fast in the late spring, then through the long hot months of summer and still at their peak as we launch into autumn.
Race #7 being at the start of March also spelt the end of our endless summer weather for Auckland with plenty of rain and wind through the day. Fortunately for those racing by late afternoon the wind had abated and the rain was all but gone leaving superb racing conditions out on the course.
The 750 metre swim at Mission Bay was over a rectangular course with a variety of conditions for swimmers to experience. Mostly flat and fast with just a few largish chopped out waves to negotiate out the back left over from the earlier inclement conditions. Super swimmers Rebecca Clarke and Simone Ackermann love this stuff and dipped under the 10 minute mark as they emerged from their swim and charged through transition. A half minute back Elise Salt and Hee Ju Kim were leading the charge of the chasers out onto the run course.
Cameron Todd has established himself as the pre-eminent swimmer this summer always setting the pace and giving the rest of the field someone to chase. Recording 8 minutes and 48 seconds for his swim again stretched out the field with Sam Franklin and Gwang Min Kim the only swimmers able to stay with him. It was a wait of close to a minute before the rest of the men’s field were able to get back on dry land and attempt to erase their deficit.
Two times Series Champion Simone Ackermann swims fast and runs fast and then has a third string to her bow. That’s a blazing fast transition and this is where she took the lead before even starting her 5 kilometre run leg towards St Heliers. This run is a very scenic out and back alongside the glorious Waitemata Harbour. Simone Ackermann was one of the few athletes that may have actually got to enjoy the vista as she was soon out on her own and looked to be cruising as she took the win. Alana Lythe produced another sparkling run leg to catch Elise Salt and they battled to the line until the last few hundred metres where Alana Lythe eased ahead for second. Closing down on the podium was Emily Pearce getting herself into fourth place just ahead of swim leader Rebecca Clarke.
While Cameron Todd swims better than anyone he is no slouch at the rest of the swimrun game as his four Stroke & Stride victories over the years demonstrate. Sam Franklin joined him at the front of their field for nearly all of their 5 kilometres however once the finish line came into sight it was Cameron Todd who found another gear to open up a gap and triumph once again. Elliott Frizelle won the battle for the remaining podium position ahead of Sam Morreau and Liam Scopes.
And so after a summer of competition in a fortnight’s time the final race will decide the Stroke & Stride Champions for the year. While she hasn’t completely sewn it up already Simone Ackermann (1st, 1st, 1st, 1st & 1st) is an outrageous favourite to take out the title of series champion for the third year in a row. Similarly Michael Poole (1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd & 1st) has also all but won the title, though if he does it this will be his inaugural series win. That said neither title has been won yet and both our leaders need to front and compete well at Race #8 to ensure the Stroke & Stride Cups are getting their names engraved for 2011.
Closer action may come from the athletes lining up for the minor placings. Elise Salt (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 3rd) has had a tremendous season and holds second five points ahead of debutante Alana Lythe (3rd, 3rd, 4th, 3rd & 2nd) followed by Rebecca Clarke (2nd, 1st, 4th, 6th & 5th) and Lizzie Orchard (5th, 4th, 3rd, 5th & 6th).
Sam Franklin (3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd & 2nd) gets better every season and in 2011 is rewarded with his first ever Stroke & Stride win and his current second overall in the Series Grand Prix. Elliott Frizelle (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 3rd & 3rd) has proven himself a very fast learner in the couple of years he’s been competing to now have a very good shot at finishing in the money if he can stay ahead of Cameron Todd (2nd, 5th, 1st & 1st) and Sam Morreau (5th, 4th, 6th, 4th & 4th).
Gwang Min Kim KOR
Yun-Ho Lee KOR
Seung Wan Chu KOR
Hee Ju Kim KOR
Risa Kusunoki JAP