Home Straight for State Champs

The middle day of water competition at the 2016 NSW Surf Life Saving Open Championships, on another hot and dry autumn day at Umina and Ocean beaches, was the one day hit-out for the ‘beachies’, the sprint and flag competitors who hurl themselves across and into soft sand.

On an even track right out the front of Umina SLSC, heats turned into semis and semis turned into finals and gold medal winning performances.

Elouera’s Elly Graf scored the rare double, state gold medallist in both the Flag and Sprint events. She has her sights on way more than States; as well as gunning for her sixth national sprint title at next month’s Aussies she’s working hard for the chance to make the Australian relay team at the Rio Olympic Games in August.

“I’m hoping to make top four for a relay spot in the 4 x 100m and will have to see how my times go for individual selection for the 100m sprint. I’m keeping calm; I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ll just give it my all.” Graf qualified fourth for London in 2012 however the relay team wasn’t sent. Between now and potential Olympic team selection at the end of June she has track nationals as well as Aussies.

Collaroy’s talented Katie Williams was the runner-up in the Open Female Flag final and the bronze went to Helensburgh-Stanwell Park. In the Sprint final, silver medallist Siobhan Dibley from Helensburgh-SP was one of four finalists running for the strong Illawarra club.

Cronulla made a noticeable impression on the sand this weekend, the hard work of new beach coach Mark Redrup and his team of 35 making inroads into HSP’s long running dominance. Avoca Beach Olympians Riley Fitzsimmons and Lachlan Tame showed their class with a number of outstanding performances in the ski events.

Despite the pair not having competed together at a state championship previously, they were pleased with their efforts. “It’s our first carnival together so it’s good to come away with the results from today’s events,” Fitzsimmons said.

The two final Open events for the day were the ski and board relay where powerhouses Newport and Manly claimed line honours.

Jay Furniss, who is a key to Manly’s success, was the final board paddler for the club and after winning the relay is excited for the final day of competition. “Going into Sunday we have a number of teams in finals so it’ll hopefully be a great day of racing, not just for us but every club,” Furniss said.

On the sand Cronulla’s Sam Stonestreet, who came second in the U14 Flags last weekend backed up with a win competing up in Under 15s. “Competing at the Open championship is a great challenge. They’re harder and bigger and I’m very happy to come away with the gold medal,” Stonestreet said.

Michael Kember (Collaroy) was first in a photo finish in the Open Sprint in front of Newport’s Jake Lynch while Blake Drysdale (HSP) dominated the Open Flags.

In the surfboat competition the crews slogged it out in the flat, shallow conditions and it was a fight the whole way back to the beach in all divisions.

Aside from the usual suspects dominating, including many of the large Sydney and Northern Beaches clubs, there were a few unfamiliar faces taking to the warm waters off Ocean Beach on the NSW Central Coast.

The well-travelled crew from Darwin SLSC could have been easily mistaken for an Avoca team in their similar cap colour and particularly given the fact they were rowing a borrowed Avoca boat.

Aptly-named the ‘Box Jellies’, the women’s crew and their sweep Paul Hardy rowed in the Open Women division and said they were very happy not to have to contend with crocodiles! “We have been training since October and had this carnival as our goal,” said Ellie from the crew.

A sight not often seen at State Champs was not one, but two boat crews from Era SLSC, in the Royal National Park. While most people don’t even know where their club is, the two Reserves crews, one of them taking out the recent Sydney Branch champs, left their mark.

A partly cloudy final day with a top temp of 29 degrees is expected to round out the three day carnival as organisers farewell Umina and Ocean beach after a successful four year hosting. Next year the State Titles move to Swansea-Belmont.

Overall Pointscore after Day 2 1 Newport SLSC 332
2 Manly LSC 200
3 Wanda SLSC 181
4 Cronulla SLSC 164
5 Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC 117
6 North Cronulla SLSC 105
7 Umina SLSC Inc 100
8 Elouera SLSC 94
9 Coogee SLSC 83
10 Freshwater SLSC 63

Sat 12 Mar 2016