Tasman athlete Lautenslager finally bags elusive title after years of near misses

Tears flowed from Tasman’s Jared Lautenslager moments after raising his arms in triumph at the finish line of Tuesday’s New Zealand M20 3000m championships in Wanganui.

“People don’t understand why I went so over the top at the finish,” said Lautenslager, who was timed in 8min 37.96sec. “But after coming up short the past five years and to finally get over the hump and claim a national title is absolutely incredible.”

Lautenslager came close but was disappointed with bronze medals in the M18 3000m race at the 2015 New Zealand track and field championships and the M18 division at the 2015 New Zealand cross country championships. He also had numerous top five finishes at New Zealand club and secondary schools races.

This time he was not to be denied, clinging to the lead group in the 20-man field from the outset and allowing the leaders to block a home stretch headwind that gusted to 30km on the Cook’s Gardens track.

“I was not comfortable with the inconsistent pace,” Lautenslager said. “I just stayed focused and waited as long as possible.”

Manawhatu’s Christian Conder took the lead with a lap to go. Lautenslager and race favourite James Uhlenberg of Auckland chased Conder down the back stretch. Lautenslager then burst past Conder around the final turn, never leaving the outcome in doubt and stretching the lead to 15m over Conder in the home stretch with his 57-sec final lap.

Lautenslager is the first of the talented Lautenslager brothers to snare a New Zealand title but not the first in his family. His mother, Debbie, won the New Zealand 5000m title in 1987. His father and coach, the former top American runner Greg, won three masters titles in 2013. Craig and Jeff Lautenslager, who compete for US universities, are ranked among the top New Zealand senior runners.

“I made my family proud, and I know my brothers will be very happy for me,” said Lautenslager, who is expected to sign for a full scholarship with an American university next month.

Lautenslager’s training mate, Kalani Sheridan, finished ninth in a near personal best 8min 49.31sec. Bridie Edwards placed seventh in the W20 3000m champs in 10min 15.66sec. Lucy Sheat of Marlborough finished fourth in the women’s 200m in 25.24secs in the accompanying Cook’s Classic meet.

Full results are available at athletics.org.nz, and the video of the M20 3000m can be viewed below.

 – Stuff