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By Duncan Morrison - Thu 24 Mar 2022 3:18pm
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Juniors Take Centre Stage

After being off the cards for 2 years now, the allure of Junior World Orienteering Champs (JWOC) is firmly in the minds of our best junior orienteers, peaking this weekend with part 1 of the JWOC trial process. Wairarapa will play host to a quality field of under 20 athletes ready to battle it out and book themselves a place in the team. This weekend also doubles as round 2 of the National Orienteering League (NOL) although the real battle and excitement will be provided by our leading junior talent.

While it may seem worlds away, the Waiarapa terrain will do its best to simulate the expected Central Portuguese orienteering challenges our selected athletes will face come July. The rolling to steep forested gully spur terrain of both maps (Knolls of Leary – middle, Mingimingi – long) will no doubt challenge the total package of orienteering techniques required to be successful at a higher level.

Speaking with Saturday’s middle distance course planner and premier women’s elite orienteering athlete Lizzie Ingham you get a real sense that competitors can expect the total orienteering challenge. Ingham notes, “the terrain lends itself to a full range of orienteering techniques. Runners will have to decide what routes play best to their strengths whilst balancing pushing physically and keeping on top of technique”. Traditionally the middle-distance discipline is viewed as the ultimate orienteering challenge – a sentiment echoed by Ingham when expressing her excitement and intrigue as to how runners will take on the course.

The terrain for Saturday’s middle distance at The Knolls of Leary is described as mainly fast running forest, with patches of bushy undergrowth that reduce visibility and runability. The men’s course is 4.2km with 215m climb, the women will have 3.6km with 165m of climb. Racing will commence early afternoon with results to be posted online as soon after the event as possible.

Sunday will provide another strong test to our JWOC hopefuls, with experienced elite orienteer Gene Beveridge dishing out the challenges. As described by Beveridge, “the terrain for the long distance at Mingimingi is forested gully spur, much like the middle distance with exception that the gullies are deeper and the hills higher!”. A long distance will usually seek to provide robust route choice challenges – something Beveridge notes “there will be big decisions to be made, and competitors will have to take the map seriously to choose a good route” and then issuing a pertinent warning to racers that “half baked plans could be costly”.

Trialists will be truly tested, with 8.0km and 555m of climb for the men and 5.9km and 395m climb for the women. Racing begins mid-morning with results to be posted online as soon after the event as possible.

Traditionally providing a form guide for junior racing can be tricky, especially given the disruption and lack of events on offer due to COVID-19. Given the testing terrain, we should expect a real competitive battle between the 15 women all fighting to consistently place in the top 6. Whilst we won’t see any sprint orienteering this weekend, Penelope Salmon’s class is hard to look past in this field. Kaia Joergensen performances running up a grade at the Not-Oceania champs on a similar style of terrain demand a favorite tag, as well as recent performances from Zara Stewart (Not-Oceania middle winner).

Recent local results place Felix Hunt at the top of the pecking order in the men’s grade, although expect strong challenges from any of the other 14 competitors with the likes of Zefa Fa’ave, Will Tidswell and Nathan Borton all showing solid form.

Part 2 of the trial process will incorporate the ONZ National Champs in Nelson at Easter, with team hopefuls looking to display consistent results across the entire trial period. This consistency and composure that is required to be successful is a mantra held closely by NZ’s own previous JWOC Middle Distance Champion, Matt Ogden. With 2022 marking 10 years since the famous victory, we asked Ogden to provide some closing comments around the upcoming trials. Matt’s thoughtful words as follows, “The trials are a measure of one’s composure to the prospect of putting on the black suit and representing the fern. It is where the campaign for the team begins the inception of an orienteering experience like no other. I wish everyone good skills and ultimately, to enjoy the trials.”

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