News & Updates

27 September 2023 • Road

North Harbour Bays and University of Canterbury hunt successful title defence

University of Canterbury and North Harbour Bays celebrate their senior victories at the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Road Relay Championships. Credit: (Ethan Gillespie).

The 2023 New Zealand Road Relay Championships take place as part of the Loburn 68 on Saturday (30 September). We chat to the team manager’s of the defending senior men’s and women’s champions ahead of this year’s eagerly awaited event.

Such is the strength in depth of women’s endurance running at North Harbour Bays the Auckland-based club are opting to run two teams of similar quality in a bid to claim two medals in the senior women’s race.

North Harbour Bays have secured victory in six of the past nine editions of the senior women’s race and are gunning for a third consecutive title after victories in 2020 and 2022 (the 2021 championships were cancelled because of the pandemic).

Last year at Bottle Lake Forest a powerful North Harbour Bays line up blasted to victory by more than six-and-a-half minutes and this year have opted to split their A and B team in pursuit of success.

Team Manager Paul Hamblyn said: “It is certainly a new challenge, and we are trying to do something different. If it doesn’t pay off this year, then it will motivate them to train even harder next year.

“We know it is risky strategy but after I suggested it, the girls were all behind it. I’m not sure if there has ever been two teams from the same club on the podium in the senior women’s race at Road Relays but we thought it would be a cool thing to attempt to do.”

The bulk of the team underwent a team time trial earlier this month on a 7.5km route in Devonport. On the back of this the two teams were split as evenly as possible with just 15 seconds separating both teams.

“The goal was to make them as even as possible,” added Paul. “We are missing a few athletes, Olivia Witney (who produced the fastest leg of the day in 2022) does not compete and we are missing a couple on family holidays. But we think by compiling the teams this way it will help add to the competition and help raise the performance levels.”

Despite several high profile absentees the University of Canterbury hope to mount a strong challenge as they bid for a third successive senior men’s national road relay title.

With Oska Inkster-Baynes and Chris Dryden competing at the World Road Running Championships in Latvia among several names unavailable the 2023 make-up is significantly different to the 2022 iteration with just three returning members of the team from last year – Dan Balchin, Saxon Morgan and Tom Moulai – competing in the 2023 event.

However, given the strength of the club at the moment, Team Manager Craig Motley is hopeful of a good showing by University at the Loburn 68.

“Missing Oska and Chris, arguably our number one and two, meant we have had to make a few changes,” says Craig.

“But the team are pretty pumped, Oska has done a lot of work with the boys getting them motivated before he left for Latvia (where he is competing in the half marathon at the World Road Running Championships).

“He loves the road relays but the World Road Running Championships was a fantastic opportunity for him to represent his country. Oska and Chris have been working on targeting a big race on the same weekend (the World Road Running Championships take place on 1-2 October) so many of the boys have been able to do training sessions aiming for the same date for a big race.”

Motley concedes Whippets – who won a senior men’s silver medal behind University of Canterbury at the 2022 New Zealand Road Relay Championships – will start pre-event favourites given the quality of their team.

And while the course will present its challenges – notably on laps three and seven – Motley is hopeful of a positive defence of the title from the Christchurch-based club.

“We’ve worked hard on making sure a number of our top runners are still available,” he said. “The Whippets can maybe call upon four guys who are in sub-30-minute shape (for 10km) but anything can happen in a road relay.”

A full list of entries and start lists can be seen here

*Note, Harry Rattray has been replaced on the University of Canterbury team by Max Yanzick.