SENIOR women’s winner Sabrina Grogan tackles the steps on her way to winning the Toi’s Challenge for the third time in a row, with a time of one hour 32 minutes. Photo Troy Baker D7811-0377

THE top three Toi’s Challenge competitors crossed the finish line within minutes of each other.

The 26th Julians Berry Farm and Café Toi’s Challenge was won by Whakatane’s Aidan Campbell.

He finished the race in one hour 27 minutes.

Less than a minute later, Paul Campbell crossed the finish line, followed another minute-plus later by Ben Ruthe.

For the third year running, Tauranga’s Sabrina Grogan won the senior women’s individual race in a time of 1.32.

She was followed by Ali Wilson, seven minutes later, and Jessica Ruthe, around 13 minutes after.

The 70-to-79 men’s record was broken by Whangarei’s Jim Kettlewell. His time of 1.58 beat Neville Wagner’s time of 2.06 in 2009.

More participants than ever before took on the 18-kilometre run/walk around the Nga Tapuwai o Toi track and the 6km fun run/walk on the Birdwalk.

Participation numbers set a record, organiser William Doney said.

“There were 893 who took part this year. Last year there were 640.”

Doney said numbers had been increasing every year, but this year saw an increase in all categories.

Though the challenge was “quite hard” for Doney, he said conditions couldn’t have been better.

“As for the course, it was excellent. The Whakatane District Council, Department of Conservation and Whakatane Athletic and Harrier Club members have done a good job with the course.

“It is a very good course and because it is a hard run, it is popular.”

Doney said the event attracted people from all around New Zealand and accommodation was booked out.

A highlight for Doney this year was participants giving positive feedback.

“It was good to see people actually commenting about it after the race. People approached me and other committee members to thank us for the day.

“The committee is really happy about it.”

The success of the event meant sponsors were lining up for next year too, he said.

“Another highlight for me was seeing Whakatane Intermediate School students perform a haka before the race.

“It was good to see more schools involved too.”

Results

Men’s individual run: 1, Aidan Campbell, 01.27.04; 2, Paul Campbell, 01.27.58; 3, Ben Ruthe, 01.28.57.
Women’s individual run: 1, Sabrina Grogan, 01.32.10; 2, Ali Wilson, 01.39.28; 3, Jessica Ruthe, 01.45.01.
Men’s team run: 1, Rocket, 01.27.57; 2, Tutu Fast, 01.38.18; 3, WHS Team Leon And Cam, 01.40.37.
Female team run: 1, Ella And Morgan, 01.52.12; 2, Catch Us If You Can, 01.54.22; 3, Ohope Fitness, 02.03.01.
Mixed team run: 1, #Wetwo, 01.37.21; 2, Teagan & Sam, 01.43.46; 3, Pb & J 01.59.35.
Men’s individual walk: 1, Shannan Fitzgerald, 02.23.40; 2, Wayne Smith, 02.49.00; 3, Tai Hunia, 02.49.23.
Women’s individual walk: 1, Anne Bourke, 01.49.02; 2, Tania Mischetilsa, 01.50.40; 3, Laura Kelly, 02.16.24.

haylee.king@thebeacon.co.nz