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By Duncan Morrison - Thu 14 Apr 2022 3:18pm
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With the 2022 season in full swing, focus for New Zealand’s fastest navigators turns to the top of the South Island and the iconic limestone of Takaka Hill. Easter weekend will see national titles up for grabs in the middle distance and long distance disciplines, as well as points available in round 3 of the national orienteering league.

Nelson Orienteering Club is using the renown map Canaan Downs for both middle and long disciplines. “Pure NZ Orienteering is how club president, Matt Ogden, describes it. The area covers a plateau high on the Pikikirunga Range, between Motueka and Takaka. Limestone bluffs, sinkholes and the famous Harwoods Hole are the most easily visible features of the area. When it comes to orienteering Matt describes it as having elements reminiscent of Swedish and Slovenian terrain. “It has marshes, random vegetation and large boulders”. He goes on “But at the same time, it is distinctly New Zealand with the beech forest and birdsong. It’s just awesome.”

The middle distance champs is up first on the Saturday, utilising the southern part of the Canaan Downs area. Streams, forested slopes and a flatter area dotted with depressions characterise this end of the map. Neil Murray and Michael Croxford are the setter-planner team and will no doubt have some tight, technical challenges for runners.

Easter Sunday will continue the challenge with the long distance. Set and controlled by Georgia Whitla and Brent Edwards, this is shaping up to be a true test of endurance and pacing.

The current NOL standings give a hint as to who might be battling for national titles in the forest come easter. In womens’ elite Lizzie Ingham is a strong favourite, with a perfect score so far from her 2022 NOL appearances and strong across any terrain type. The Central Scorchers look especially strong in this field with Imogene Scott also in the mix for the win. A dark horse could be Amber Morrison, a previous nationals long winner, not one to write off.

In M21E, Joe Lynch and Gene Beveridge have set the pace in racing so far this year. A few names absent from NOL standings are present in the nationals entry list. Chris Forne is back from adventure racing duties. Nick Hann is another previous national champion on the start line. Southerly Storm aren’t the only contenders, the Northern Knights are bringing a strong contingent with the Auckland trio of Duncan Morrison, Tommy Hayes and Jonty Oram flying the flag down south.

Zefa Fa’avae showed a clear set of heels at to the M20 field at JWOC trials/NOL round 2. A bit of Nelson local knowledge only strengthens his favourite status for this year. The South Islanders have depth too with Ryan Moore, Fergus O’Neill and Riley Croxford all performing well so far this year. Will Tidswell and Cameron Bonar seem those best placed to fight for victory from the Knights and Scorchers.

W20 has been tight so far in the 2022 NOL. Penelope Salmon and Zara Stewart lead the points for the Northern Knights. Kaia Jorgensen and Katherine Babington have been flying the flag for the Southerly Storm, and will be down as contenders. After a strong JWOC trial, Rachel Baker is also well in the mix for nationals.

Beyond the NOL and NSL events, runners will be flying their club colours in national relays on Easter Monday. The relay courses will leave the karst terrain of Takaka behind and move to the plantation pine, sand dune terrain of Moturoa. How will runners adapt to the change of terrain and the pressure of a relay format.

Follow the action at online at orienteering.org.nz or on our social channels.

Article by Thomas Reynolds

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