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Herring dusts off cobwebs in style

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Jonathan Herring only decided to compete in the Catlin National Triathlon Championships two weeks ago, he still won the Olympic distance race by more than four minutes.

Herring, who because of an injury had not swum, biked or run in anger since the Commonwealth Games in July last year finished yesterday's event in a time of 2hr 13min 27sec, well ahead of Mark Wilcox who was second in 2:17:51, with Mark Robinson third in 2:18:32.

The trio have all qualified for the Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Chicago in September, although whether Herring opts to take part remains to be seen.

“I wouldn't want to go if I couldn't really perform, and it's a big ask [to get fit],” he said. “I'm just trying to find my feet again.”

Illness and injury impeded Herring's preparations for the Glasgow Games and afterwards he said his “body couldn't take it any more and I just had to take a lot of time off.”

As a result he had few expectations coming into a race he finished second in last year.

“I got two weeks of light swimming in, so I felt OK in the water, I was slow but OK, and on the bike I kept it comfortable and with the run I did a speed jog,” Herring said.

“It was tough, with all the U-turns it was a chasers' course, a couple of fast laps would have broken me.

“It turned out all right, I just tried to take it comfortable, mind my own business and somehow I managed to get a win out of it, but I'm not going to complain about it.”

First out of the water in 25:32, some two minutes ahead of the field, Herring led from start to finish and the real race took place behind him with Robinson, Wilcox, and Geoff Smith all fighting for a spot on the podium.

Robinson and Smith battled each other closely on the 40-kilometre bike and transitioned to the run within seconds of each other, with Wilcox, whose 1:10:13 time on the bike had him drop back, trailing by almost two minutes going into the run.

Smith, however, had been battling an achilles injury and pulled up after less than two miles, leaving Wilcox to chase down Robinson, which he duly did, passing him with three laps to go on the ten-kilometre run.

The women's race was a much tighter affair, with Martina Olcheski-Bell holding on to beat Julia Hawley to the line, while Kristen Palmer came back from being fifth at one stage to claim third.

Karen Smith, the defending champion, would have won comfortably, but she is recovering from a foot injury and had told her fellow competitors before the race that she would only be taking part in the 1,500-metres swim and bike sections.

“I had to let my head rule my heart,” Smith said.

“I wanted to carry on but I have the Island Games coming up, and the Hawaii Ironman later this year and running hard on my foot could have set me three months back in my rehab.”

Tyler Smith at least gave his mother something to cheer about, dominating the Sprint distance event to win in a time of 1:03:09, more than five minutes ahead of Matthew Oliveira who was second in 1:08:21 and Chris Harkness who was third in 1:17:02.

In Karen Smith's absence, Olcheski-Bell, Hawley, Palmer and Belinda Castree all battled for position, with Castree desperately trying to hold on to the lead she had built up for herself during the swim, which she finished in 26:01, and maintained during the bike ride.

Castree, however, struggled on the run, and was quickly overtaken by Olcheski-Bell and Hawley, and eventually dropped back to fourth as Palmer passed her on the closing stages of the race.

Olcheski-Bell had been third coming off the bike, but once out front grimly held on to finish in 2:30:52, with Hawley, who ran a 42:53 compared to her rival's 43:18, close behind in 2:31:19 and Palmer two minutes further back coming home in a time of 2:33:38.

“It was an effort and Julia Hawley, she's so strong, and every loop of the run she just kept getting closer and closer. I was just thinking ‘feet don't fail me now,'” Olcheski-Bell said. “She really made me work.”

There was one win for the Hawley household yesterday, with Erica Hawley finishing third overall and winning the female division in the Sprint distance race.

She came home in a time of 1:16:05, with Amber Hehta second in 1:20:12, and Megan Berry rounded out the top three in 1:24:58.

Sitting comfortably: Herring eased to victory in the Olympic distance event at Clearwater Beach (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)
Dominating performance: Tyler Smith exits the water at Clearwater Beach (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published April 13, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 12, 2015 at 11:50 pm)

Herring dusts off cobwebs in style

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