16 Mar 1999"Winners: Jared Letica and Nicole Cope"

  • St Helier's Bay
  • |
  • Swim: 750 metre
  • |
  • Run: 5 kilometre

Race #8 was the final and deciding race in this season’s Stroke & Stride Series. The Series had commenced in November and over the summer months competitors had enjoyed some fine racing on Auckland’s waterfront. On more than the odd occasion competitors had to contend with a bumpy ride courtesy of the easterly that seems to have blown all summer long. But not for the season finale. It was hard to believe that summer was at an end with the spectacular day that was laid on for our final event. So bright sunshine was the only prevailing weather condition as the big field toed the sand at the start of the 750 metre swim.

William Green was on his own at the head of the men’s field as they returned to the beach. The women’s field started their swim as the leading contenders in the men’s field were racing through transition. Jared Letica had announced his return to Stroke & Stride racing the previous fortnight with a great second placing after his four year absence. This time out the 1995 New Zealand Swim/Run Champ went one better and claimed first place combining a excellent swim with his always fine run. Rodney Gordon can catch just about anybody over 5 kilometres of running. Except for Jared that is, Rodney had to settle for second. Clark Ellice performances have certainly lifted a notch over the later part of this season and he again grabbed another top five finish and more valuable points in this race ahead of legendary Dean Foster. Liam Scopes dramatic finish in fifth spot was above and beyond the call of duty and a good indication of how hard you have to go, to go that fast.

Meanwhile the women’s field were being towed around the buoys by the 1996/97 Series Champion Debbie Tanner who hit the beach in 10 minutes and 33 seconds with Kirsty Whiting and Katie Bennett not to far behind. Nicole Cope had her best swim of the season and when this was combined with her always swift run it wasn’t looking good for the other women as they headed out on to the first turnaround at Kohimarama. When they came back into view at St Heliers Bay and with a kilometre to the finish Nicole had snatched the lead and went on to win her first ever Stroke & Stride. Debbie Tanner had been caught by Kirsty Whiting by this stage but wasn’t giving up second without a fight and it wasn’t until the last few hundred metres that Kirsty gained the upper hand and claimed second which was also her best ever finish. Young Katie Bennett may not have been able to match strides with our top three but she too was having the race of her life finishing in fourth just ahead of our best finishing international, Sione Jongstra.

So that was all she wrote for the 1998/99 Stroke & Stride Series and when the final points were tallied in the Series Grand Prix there were no real gasps of surprise when it was Brent Foster and Heidi Alexander who were crowned Series Champions. Brent just happens to be collecting his unprecedented sixth Series Championship while Heidi was backing up last season’s Series Championship with another title and it’s been quite a few years since that’s happened in the women’s field. Points were accumulated over the eight race Series with an athlete’s best six races to count.

This season Brent Foster (1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st &1st) was competing in his own little universe and was simply all class, all season. Things were a lot closer for the rest of the men’s field and after the eight events it was the slightly better record of Rodney Gordon (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 1st & 2nd) that enabled him to hold out William Green (5th, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd & 3rd) for overall second in the Series. Clark Ellice (10th, 11th, 5th, 2nd, 4th & 3rd) got better with every race and just edged out his compatriot Chris Williams (4th, 4th, 10th, 3rd, 5th & 10th) for fourth position.

Heidi Alexander (1st, 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st & 2nd) was also in brilliant form all season long but she was matched on occasion by another previous Series Champion, Marisa Pentecost (4th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd & 1st) who was having her best season since1993/94. Victory in Race #8 was crucial to Nicole Cope (2nd, 2nd,6th, 3rd, 3rd & 1st) edging out Debbie Tanner (3rd, 5th, 2nd, 1st, 3rd & 3rd) by the closest of margins in the Series Grand Prix while Kirsty Whiting’s (3rd, 5th, 5th, 6th, 4th & 2nd) future looks very bright indeed after her debut season. We must also mention Nicola de Lautour who joins Debbie Tanner and Kirsty Whiting as being one of only three athletes to record points in all eight races of the Series.

Male

1

Jared Letica

26m 43s

2

Rodney Gordon

27   08

3

Clark Ellice

27   14

4

Dean Foster

27   42

5

Liam Scopes

27   54

6

Stuart Blake

28   09

7

Paul Angland

28   23

8

Steven Nicholls

28   31

9

Malcolm McGregor

28   54

10

Chris Williams

28   58

11

Ian Horsburgh

28   59

12

Simon Geach

29   08

13

Glen Tasker

29   30

14

Greg Weatherall

29   33

15

David Bowden

29   49

Female

1

Nicole Cope

30m 08s

2

Kirsty Whiting

30   34

3

Debbie Tanner

30   40

4

Katie Bennett

32   01

5

Sione Jongstra        NED

32   16

6

Leanne Johnston

32   56

7

Nicola de Lautour

33   09

8

Jade Gilbertson

33   23

9

Hayley Swaving

33   28

10

Vanessa Palmer

33   59

11

Jenny Rix Trott

34   35

12

Elen Clarke

34   41

13

Shena Heath

34   48

14

Margie Peat

34   55

15

Melissa Chambers

35 09

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