12 December 2020
By Harris Williams
History repeated at the Mount Monster today, with Mount Maunganui's Hamish Miller and Mairangi Bay's Rachel Clarke owning the surf lifesaving endurance showpiece for the second time in four years.
Miller, the 22-year-old phenom back on his home beach, tore apart the competition to win the 24.5km Dexion-sponsored event by nearly 4mins, while Clarke also emulated her 2017 win with a commanding performance of her own, holding off a fast-finishing Rebecca Barron by 38secs.
Clarke used her strength on the opening 12km ski leg to pull away, keeping her foot on the gas through the subsequent 5km run, 1.5km swim and 6km board legs.
“I knew that my competition had the motivational advantage of chasing me down so I concentrated on chasing down the guys!” she said.
Her 2hr 50min 21sec was nearly 6mins slower than last year’s winning female time and nearly 9mins adrift of her 2017 time, although that had much to do with the gusty westerly winds that caused havoc throughout the 300-strong field.
Miller, meanwhile, was a class act crossing in 2:24:47 and, after dabbling in triathlons for the past three seasons, regarded this win as just as good as his maiden victory in 2017.
“It's special either way,” he said. “It's always so humbling and so much fun and being able to do it with my mates makes the experience all the better.”
One of those mates was 16-year-old clubmate Jayden Murphy, who improved on his fifth-place finish last year with second this time around. Murphy showed racing smarts beyond his years as he finished in 2:28:35, just 38secs ahead of another teenager, Omanu's Tanner Baxter.
“I knew the swimming leg wasn't my strongest so if I could put in that extra effort to hold off Tanner, I could take advantage of the surf break on the swim to shore and then make a hard push on the board,” Murphy explained.
After a year filled with uncertainty, organisers were delighted with the turnout in the eighth edition of the race, with the testing conditions making the day particularly memorable.
With wind gusts reaching 50kh/h at times, racing smart was the key, with local knowledge proving invaluable for Mount Maunganui's Barron, who entered the final board leg in sixth but stormed home.
“I noticed that during the final board, the girls in front of me had circled North Rock closely and got caught up in rough swells,” she said. “I decided to circle wider and chase the wind further out – I ended up catching some awesome runners and passed three or four girls. I don't think they even saw me because I was so far out.”
Red Beach’s Kate Rodgers completed the women's podium with a hard-fought third place. Other results from the day saw East End take out the men's and women's team event, while Mount Maunganui took home gold in the mixed team event.
The under-14 Mini Monster finished with Muriwai's Matthew Mihaljevich and Orewa's Elizabeth Brennan taking home gold medals in the boys’ and girls’ divisions respectively.
PHOTOS BY ALAN GIBSON/Gibson Images