The Wanganui speed skating team ventured south to Timaru into the lion's den to contest the 2013 NZ Banked Track Championships over the weekend.
Timaru is the home of the powerful South Canterbury club which the Begg family has built into a powerhouse on the NZ speed skating scene and they contributed by far the largest contingent of competitors. However the Wanganui team was not much bothered by this and produced some of the star performances of the event.
The Senior Men's competition was won in comprehensive fashion by the current World Champion Peter Michael of Manawatu who won all five of his events in record breaking times.
The Senior and Open Women's grade was equally dominated by former World Champion Nicole Begg in her return to National competition after a 16-month sickness induced break from the sport.
However there was a suggestion that her competitors might not be quite so willing to show the deference she previously commanded.
Begg won all her races handily enough but was disqualified from the 10 K points race for skating inside the lines to pass other skaters, a tactic often tolerated at World events but one that cut no ice with the local officials. This handed the race to last year's champion Steff Challis of Valley Inline who had chased Begg all the way with 2nd, 3rd and 4th going to Wanganui's Jessica van Bentum, Rebecca Smith and Nicole Travers respectively.
Van Bentum has stepped her performances up to a new level, taking on her arch rival Emily Rose van der Heyden of Timaru, and winning the Intermediate Ladies 300TT, the 500m and the 1000m titles all in record breaking times. In addition to her second in the 10K Open she was also third in the 15K Open behind a fired up Begg and van der Heyden.
Rebecca Smith, who is not known as a sprinter, picked up a surprise bronze in the 500m but crashed heavily while battling van Bentum and van der Heyden for the lead in the 1000m. She bounced back for third in the 10K and 5th in the 15K Open.
Nicole Travers showed some of her most determined form ever to take 4th in the 10K and 6th in the 15K Open.
Wanganui's Euginia Lee continued her incredible form from the Road and Track Nationals winning all the Juvenile Girls (not yet 12) races and taking the New Zealand record for 2000m in the process. Lee left a large field of Southerners in her wake but in the 2000m her Wanganui teammate Renee Teers was the only skater to push her hard all day to come in a close second. Lee now faces the challenge of stepping up to the Junior Girls (Not yet 15) grade for the new season but she is unlikely to be too fazed by the prospect.
Eden Smith had a string of 4th places in the Junior Boys but still shows improving form every time he competes.
Krystine Davies had a string of seconds in the Masters but Brett McCormack of Timaru was in a class of his own.
The Primary classes were full of close racing with Wanganui's Caitlin Fergusson picking up a silver and two bronze medals in the Girls in a close contest with Timaru's Rosheen O'Conner and Charli Nevin. Chase Morpeth found some new competition in Timaru's silky smooth Kaylum McAuley and ended up with three silvers.