Stroke and Stride heating up

The second of three events in the Ogier Stroke and Stride series took place on Wednesday 17 August and the finishes were closer than ever before.

After a win in the first race of the series, all eyes were on Jacqui Retief to see whether she could edge Pam Travers for the win again. However, it would be a tough ask, as Travers, a seasoned competitor, was now very aware of Retief’s speed on the run, and was likely to push as hard as she could to distance her in the swim.

In the men’s division, race one winner Marius Acker was for the first time looking rather nervous before the start of the event. Young swimmer Matthew Courtis had made Acker work hard on the run in race one, and had finished only 30 seconds behind him. With a swim some 50 per cent longer, it was likely to be an extremely close finish, one that Courtis could in theory take if he could build up enough of a gap on the swim.

There were also a couple of new faces on the starting line, including some who had the possibility of posing a threat to those on the lower steps of the podium.

From the gun it was clear that Acker would once again have his hands full as a small group of swimmers surged off the front of the pack. However, Acker fought hard, mostly on his own, to try and keep them within striking distance.

As the swimmers hit the ladder, it was Courtis who was in the lead, with Joel Rombough as well as newcomer Alex McCallum in the same group. Andrew Smiley came out of the water just behind them to hand over to his team runner Bill Edwards in defence of their team title. Acker led the way in for the ‘old men’ with Johan Heath on his heels, but they were already 1:25 down on the youngsters, and Acker would have a big chase on his hands if he wanted to pull back Courtis before the line.

Among the ladies, Travers managed to come out of the water with a couple of seconds on Retief, who would have to chase hard to catch up to Travers out on the run. In the first event, Retief had lead Travers out of the water by some 20 seconds, so this was a positive turn of events for Travers.

As swimmers continued to stream in to the transition area, the focus shifted to the finish line as tension built. Would Acker be able to run down Courtis, or would the youngster prevail? For the second week in a row, it was a very relieved Acker who rounded the bend into the finish area first, but tellingly Courtis crossed the line a mere five seconds down to claim second yet again.

Next to cross the line was Edwards to take the win in the team competition for the second week running.

Third in the men’s division, and a great surprise to all, was McCallum, who had run very well to hold off Heath.

Among the ladies, Retief managed to run down Travers yet again, outsprinting her on the way to the line to take a five second victory as Travers had to settle for second yet again. Emily Davies took third to make the podium in week two an exact match for week one.

The results of the second race means that Acker only has to finish second in the third event to take the series, with the same going for Retief. However, although Retief looks quite capable of a series sweep, Acker might not have the same luck. The swim in week three is 200 metres longer again, and with Courtis gaining time on Acker at a rate of roughly 30 seconds per 200 metres, indications are that he might well have to settle for second in week three, unless he can produce an even more blistering run split than usual.

The third and final event in the series is set to take place on Wednesday at 5.45pm, with the start from Sunset House.

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