The day after he turned 20, Hayden Squance became New Zealand’s national triathlon champion over the Olympic distance on a testing course at Corsair Bay near Christchurch on Sunday.
At the same time, 20-year-old Luke Kelly tore apart a field of 564 of the country’s best long distance swimmers to win the 3.3km Interislander Capital Classic, race three of the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series in Wellington.
The pair have been competitors since their early teens, when both competed in both sea swimming and triathlon, with Kelly having the upper hand early on.
Over recent years it’s been Squance who has shone, becoming one of the top local competitors in sea swimming, running and cycling.
This year Kelly has come back to swimming with a vengeance, leading the Port Nelson swim series after a series of thrilling sprint finishes with Squance, taking most by just a second or two.
The ability to rise to the sprint finish stood Kelly in good stead in the Wellington race from Frank Kitts Park to the Point Jerningham lighthouse, then around the fountain to the beach by Freyberg Pool.
Well known marathon swimmer Ben Campbell-MacDonald has a long history of success in the national ocean swim series and on Sunday he set off with a mission to win again, establishing an early break.
Kelly couldn’t keep on Campbell-MacDonald’s feet, but tracked him all the way across the harbour, finally catching him in the sprint to the beach as he took a better line and had a stronger run to the finish, winning in 39 minutes 37 seconds, a margin of two seconds. His heroics earned the Nelson swimmer the gold medal for overall winner as well as gold in the M20-24 age group.
Kelly didn’t take all the glory in Wellington, with 19 Nelson swimmers picking up 14 medals, including seven gold.
In her first swim in the national series, 14-year-old Sierra Thomas showed she’s a force to be reckoned with, sticking with the leaders to finish in 43min 30sec to finish in ninth overall, taking a bronze medal for the third woman to finish, as well as gold in her F12-14 age group.
Two seconds behind, Terry Bone was the third Nelson swimmer to make the top ten, winning the gold medal for M45-49 in the process.
Other gold medals for Nelson came from Ben Van Dyke in M65-69, Rebecca Hollingsworth, who won the non-wetsuit division in F25-29 and Derek Eaton in M75-79.
Silver medals went to Christina Harris in F50-54, Barry Thomas in M55-59, Janis Crampton in F55-59 and Maggy Johnston in F60-64, while Jack Armstrong (M25-29) and Stuart Hebberd (M65-69) took bronze medals home.
As Squance was making short work of the Corsair Bay triathlon course, 12 other Nelson club members were having their own battles with national competition as they fought for medals and world championship qualifications.
Wayne Leighton showed his pedigree with a bronze medal in M55-59, while Juliet Wiseman also took bronze in F60-64.
Full results from both events at nelsontriclub.co.nz