Southland may have been travelling to the Vantage Elite and U19 Track National Championships in Cambridge this year, but the team looked right at home on the track.
It was a great outing for the team of 29 riders, claiming eight gold medals, eleven silver medals, and 13 bronze medals. There were also additional medals for Madison combinations including Southlanders, with gold in the men’s Madison and bronze in the women’s Madison.
Southland sits second in the Points Shield going into Age Group Track Nationals, four points behind leaders Waikato Bay of Plenty, and two points ahead of Canterbury in third.
Corbin Strong was one of the stand out performers, not just for Southland but overall, as he dominated the Elite omnium and points race to take two gold medals while riding a limited programme as one of the riders heading to the World Championships in Berlin next month.
Nick Kergozou was one of the riders with the highest work rate at nationals, and was rewarded with gold in his signature event, the Elite men 1000m time trial, as well as bronze in the Elite men omnium. He took home another gold as part of the Elite men team sprint, and a silver as part of the Elite men team pursuit, not to mention some very impressive rides in other events including the Madison.
Kirstie James claimed gold, and a championship record, in the Elite women 3000m individual pursuit, and also bronze in the Elite women scratch race.
Connor Douglas rode very impressively on his debut at nationals, claiming a gold in the para-cycling men 1000m time trial, and silver in the para-cycling men 4000m individual pursuit, with a massive personal best in the pursuit.
Eddie Dawkins only competed in the Elite men Keirin, but he dominated it completely, taking the gold medal with a demonstration of power that was too much for the rest of the field.
Mitchel Fitzsimons was another rider who seemed to spend more time on the track than off it, and he was rewarded with gold in the U19 men scratch race, silver in the 1000m time trial, and a strong showing in the points race where he finished fourth, and the Madison.
Natasha Hansen raced the Elite women sprint, and set the fastest time in qualifying, making her way through to the gold medal ride where she lost out to fellow Worlds-bound rider Olivia Podmore in two tightly contested ride to take the silver medal.
Rhylee Akeroyd competed across numerous events, both sprint and endurance, and was rewarded with a silver in the U19 women 500m time trial, silver in the points race, bronze in the Keirin, and bronze in the Omnium.
Tyla Green also raced across sprint and endurance, taking silver in the U19 women Keirin, silver in the sprint, bronze in the 500m time trial, and bronze in the scratch race. She was also part of the U19 women team sprint team that claimed bronze.
Tom Sexton raced his heart out throughout, and was rewarded with a great win in the Madison, where he partnered with Laurence Pithie. He was also part of Southland’s team sprint and team pursuit teams, taking gold and silver respectively, as well as claiming an individual bronze in the scratch race, and finishing just off the podium in fourth in the 1000m time trial, just 0.2 seconds off bronze.
Nicole Shields had a good championships as well, with silver in the Elite women points race, helping Southland to silver in the team pursuit, and combining with Racquel Sheath for bronze in the Madison.
Bradly Knipe raced very well in the sprint events, qualifying second fastest in the Elite men sprint before going on to take bronze in the event, and backing that up with bronze in the Keirin as well.
Sophie-Leigh Bloxham took bronze in the Elite women 500m time trial and was also part of the silver medal winning Southland team sprint lineup.
Jenny Brown took bronze in the U19 women sprint, and another bronze as part of the U19 women team sprint lineup.
Josh Miller raced well in a nail-biting U19 men Keirin final, getting the bronze medal in a photo finish.
The team events were fertile hunting ground for Southland as well, as the combination of Kergozou, Sexton, and Conor Shearing combined for a gold medal performance in the team sprint. What made the result even more significant is that all three riders are best known for their team pursuit riding rather than their sprinting.
The same combination, with the addition of Sam Miller, also rode to a silver medal in the team pursuit, pushing with all they had in the final to try and match a flying Canterbury combination, but succumbing in the end.
There was a silver medal for the women in the team pursuit, with Shields, Rylee McMullen, Emily Paterson, and sprinter Nicole Marshall making it to the gold medal ride where they were beaten by a Waikato team that went on to set a new championship record.
Marshall also partnered with Bloxham to take silver in the Elite women team sprint, while Green and Brown took bronze in the U19 women team sprint.
There were many personal best times set as well, and a number of riders who made their presence known, even though they went home without medals.
Jake Willis rode out of his skin in numerous events, with his most impressive performance surely being his fourth place finish in the U19 men omnium, where he showed that he has the coolest head, and some of the best bike handling skills, on the track as he held off some pretty physical challenges from World Champion Laurence Pithie.
Navarh Brotherston was another rider who showed immense promise, and paired with Willis in the Madison to produce an outstanding ride for a fourth place finish against some vastly more experienced competition in a field that combined Elite and U19 riders.
Emily Paterson was rewarded with a medal in the team pursuit, as was Rylee McMullen, but their work rate in the individual events was immense, and the two paired up in the Madison to take on some truly world class combinations, finishing in fourth place after being the only team to consistently take on the top combinations.
Geertien Venter also performed well on debut at Elite Nationals, taking fourth in the Elite women Keirin, having recently stepped up to Elite racing after racing as a master at Age Group Nationals previously.
A special mention must be made of the Southland supporters as well, as they could be heard quite clearly on the live coverage, and any Southlander on the podium could be sure of receiving the loudest cheer, whether for gold, silver, or bronze. If medals were handed out for support, there would have been one more gold for Southland for sure.
CAPTION: Nick Kergozou on his way to gold in the kilo. (Credit: Dianne Manson Photos)