The final event of the Ogier Stroke and Stride series saw a new overall champions crowned in the men’s division and team division, with an emphatic title defence in the women’s division.
With the longest swim of the series at 800 metres, the third and final event seemed tailor made for Matthew Courtis, the leader in the men’s division, with Jacqui Retief also looking set to retain her lead in the women’s division. However, although Retief only had the same competitors to contend with that had pushed her since race one, Courtis would have to deal with the return of 2011 champion Marius Acker, who had been absent during the first two events of the series.
Although there was a bit of drizzle before the start of the swim, the weather held long enough for the participants to be sent off on their swim. While most of the swimmers took a more conservative line to the first buoy, Acker, with Johan Heath on his heals, chose a line close to the ironshore in order to try and take the most direct line to the first turn. However this was never going to be enough to keep Acker in contact with Courtis, who pulled out to a clear lead over fellow swim specialist and team competitor Andrew Smilley.
Courtis hit the ladder first, heading into transition with a very healthy lead. In the past, Courtis’ weakness compared to Acker had been the run, but the top swimmer had shown in the first two events that his running has come on in leaps and bounds since the 2011 edition of the event. Elliot Vernon was the next men’s competitor out of the water, 1:10 behind Courtis, with William Balderamos another 12 seconds back.
When Acker exited the water together with Heath some 1:45 behind Courtis, it seemed highly unlikely that Acker would be able to close the gap. Of course, that did not deter him from trying. Even though Acker managed to eat into Courtis’ lead with every stride, he ran out of tarmac as Courtis crossed the line in first place, stopping the clock on 22:42. Acker crossed the line some 38 seconds later, having pulled back more than a minute on Courtis over the two mile run. Heath, who had exited the water alongside Acker, claimed third, 90 seconds behind Acker, followed by Anthony Lyons and Greg Meaker.
Among the women, Andrea Kilam-Higgo was once again first out of the water, but with defending champion Retief only some 10 seconds behind, she stood no chance of holding onto the lead on the run. Michele Bailey was next, around 1:15 behind the leader, with Sally Poole right on her heals. Emily Davies, the third place finisher in the first two events of the series, exited the water 2:10 behind Kilam-Higgo, leaving herself a mountain to climb if she wanted to finish on the podium again.
Retief made light work of running down Kilam-Higgo and crossed the line in first with a time of 27:06. Kilam-Higgo finished in second place, 48 seconds back, with Davies making up all but 38 seconds of the time she had lost to the swim leader to come home in third. Bailey and Poole took fourth and fifth respectively.
In the teams division, Smilley handed Cajun Hounds team runner Bill Edwards a healthy lead going into the run, with Lauren Hew of Asian and Indian next, followed by Isabella Tognazzo of Dynamic Duo.
Edwards made the most of the lead Smilley handed him, running in with a clear lead to cross the line in 24:17. Will Edwards was next for Asian and Indian, crossing the line in 27:00, followed by Sandy Hew of Dynamic Duo in 28:14.
In the overall competition, Courtis was crowned as the winner of the men’s division, having claimed all three events in the series, with Heath in second and Meaker in third, followed by Jonathan Roney and JP Hanekom.
In the women’s overall competition, Retief defended her title thanks to three wins out of three starts, with Kilam-Higgo claiming second and Davies third, followed by Bailey and Poole.
In the team competition, Team Tassie, composed of Michael O’Connor and Nathan Stubing, claimed a narrow two point victory over Sink & Stumble, with Cajun Hounds another point behind in third. Consistency was key for Team Tassie, as the team had not claimed a single win in the series but finished consistently high in the standings in each of the three races, showing that completing all three events in the series is vital.