Jackson goes back to back in Ayr half marathon
A LARGE contingent of Whitsunday runners made their presence felt at the annual Sugar Rush Running Festival in Ayr on Saturday.
Defending champion Steve Jackson of Hamilton Island overcame a spirited challenge from rising star Josh Dyke of Proserpine and former champion Simon Regan of Townsville to take out the half marathon. Maja Zepcan, also of Hamilton Island, was the third overall female while talented 14-year-old Lloyd Clode-Roberts finished as runner-up in the 10.5km.
Dyke led out hard in the half marathon, establishing an early before Jackson broke away from the younger challenger.
The gap between the chasing pack and Jackson remained anywhere between 100-150 metres with Dyke now caught out on his own, well ahead of the chasers but struggling to regain touch.
A new personal best beckoned and Jackson surged toward the finish with a great time of 1:14:02.
Regan followed him in just forty seconds back while triathletes Ryan Palazzi, Steve Stringer and James Carman finished 5th, 6th and 7th respectively meaning five of the top ten finishers were from the Whitsundays.
Townsville runners filled the first two places in the women's race while Maja Zepcan had her own battle with Airlie Beach's Dawn Romanella.
Romanella looked to have Zepcan's measure, leading the pair for all but the last 800 metres before Zepcan made one last desperate surge toward the finish.
Romanella finished strongly but the chaser had the upper hand, timing her run to perfection to steal third place with another Hamilton Island runner, Erin Stevens finishing in fifth.
Clode-Roberts battled some cramps on his way to a second place overall and victory in the junior division of the 10.5km event.
Mark McConkey also competed over the same distance and finished in 48minutes.
Both are members of the Whitsunday Running Club with McConkey providing some excellent guidance to beginner runners. Clode-Roberts continues to fly the flag for the region chasing higher honours on the track, in cross-country and now, on the road.
Next up for local runners is the Mackay Marina Run this weekend where Clode-Roberts will strive to go one better when competing in the 8km event.
Nearly half of Whitsunday athletes who partook in the Sugar Rush were doing their first ever half marathon with Imogen Stollznow (1:54), Jade Parker (1:57), Cade Strachan (1:43), Emma Kinsey (2:28), Whitney Raven (1:43) and Gabi Percy (2:15) all finishing strongly. These runners will return to training for the inaugural Airlie Beach Running Festival on July 21.