05/03/2011 - Southland has again proved itself to be the most powerful track cycling centre in New Zealand, defending the Cycling NZ National Points Shield with style at the RaboDirect National Track Championships, held at Invercargill's ILT Velodrome over the last 8 days.
After 96 national titles were handed out across 13 age categories Southland finished atop the leaderboard with 173 points. Auckland finished in second place on 82.
The last finals session was held on Saturday night and it saw two of the sport's brightest prospects confirm their standing as the best in the business. Southland's Sophie Williamson totally dominated the Under 19 Women Omnium. Over the six events she won the Flying Lap, Elimination, 500m Time Trial, Scratch and Points races and placed third in the Individual Pursuit. Her performance made all the more remarkable by the fact it is her first year in the Under 19 ranks. West Coast North Island's Cassie Cameron finished in second place, six points adrift, with Raquel Sheath of Auckland taking the Omnium bronze.
In the Under 19 Men Omnium, Canterbury's Dylan Kennett's victory was just as emphatic. Kennett (also a first year under 19) won the Omnium Flying Lap, Kilo Time Trial, Individual Pursuit and Points Race, finished second in the Scratch Race and thirs in the Elimination. His tally of just 9 points was 18 clear of silver medal winner Fraser Gough (East Coast North Island) with Otago's Patrick Jones sneaking in front of Southland's Tom Beadle by a point to take bronze. Kennet was also awarded the Levin Cup for gaining the most points through the Championships as an Under 19 Man.
The final night featured spectacular racing from start to finish. The Under 15 Scratch races saw gold medals go to Canterbury's Eden Ronald and West Coast North Island's Campbell Stewart. Southlanders were also prominent throughout both races with silver medals going to Bronwyn Graham and Liam Haggerty and a bronze to Hayden Strong.
The Team Sprint Finals went to Southland and Canterbury. Steph McKenzie added another national title to her week's work, teaming with Kate Dunlevey to take the Women's gold over Auckland while Canterbury proved too strong for a Composite team in the Mens final.
The Masters Men Team Pursuit saw an all-Southland final. Mike White, Garry Smith and Jerard Stock catching their Southland team mates Andrew Lienert, Derek Tan and Neil Familton on their way to setting a new standard in the event of 3'27.057.
The Under 17 Girls Sprint final was won in two straight races by Kate Stewart (WCN) from Lauren Hobson (AKL) and Robin Hacker-Cary (WBP) completed a great week's work to take bronze in three races over Isabella Williams. The boys sprint title went to Daniel Rafferty from Mid South Canterbury with Auckland's Chad Elliston taking silver and Alex Hooper beating Michael Culling for bronze.
The final events were the Points Races for Under 19 Women and Men. Sophie Williamson rode the perfect race to feature in every sprint and take a comfortable victory over Georgina Wilson (AKL) with Cassie Cameron winning the final sprint to leap frog Raquel Sheath into the bronze medal position.
The Mens race was dominated by Cantabrians Alex Frame and Dylan Kennett. Frame took a lap out of the field to earn 20 points and that was enough to ensure victory from Kennett by a single point and Otago's Patrick Jones won the final sprint to take bronze ahead of Southland's Marcel Baird.
Cycling Southland extends a special thank you at all riders, team officials and event volunteers and commassaires for their assistance throughout the 2011 National Track Cycling Championships.