Silver lining for Lautenslagers in Taupo

Athletics Nelson runners Craig and Jared Lautenslager were unlikely silver medallists at Saturday’s North Island Cross Country Championships in Taupo.

Craig had not raced in New Zealand since 2011. All of his races were in the United States for the University of Texas at Arlington, where he recently has finished his third year. He decided on a redshirt season for the upcoming cross country season, allowing him to return for his final university cross country season in 2016 and run the New Zealand cross country season this winter.

The senior men’s 9km race on the rolling course at Taupo’s Spa Thermal Park was his first cross country race since the NCAA Regional Cross Country Championships in Arkansas in November and felt like it.

Jared Lautenslager, left, competes at the North Island cross country championship in Taupo.

“I hurt the entire race,” Craig said. Still, he clung to multiple New Zealand champion Matt Baxter for the first two of the three 3km loops before the Aucklander surged ahead.

Craig closed on Baxter over the final kilometre but came up 11 seconds short in 28min35sec. Jono Jackson, who like Baxter, normally beat Craig by more than a minute in cross country races in Craig’s youth, finished third in 28min39sec.

Jared was a questionable starter for the M18 race as late as Thursday. He could barely walk after a training run along the Maitai one week before the race. He soaked his sore Achilles tendon in the frigid salt water off Tahunanui Beach every day for five days, limped around Garin College between classes, and did some light jogging on Wednesday and a discomforting run on Thursday.

But the Achilles came right by the warm-up on Saturday morning.

Jared ran conservatively in the mid-pack of runners in the combined M18 and M20 5km race, testing his Achilles.

“It hurt a little the first kilometre, but once I really got into it [the pain] went away,” Jared said.

Jared carved through the pack of runners, pulling away from a chase pack on the final hill and catching everyone but M20 runner Marcus Karamanolis of Wellington and M18 winner Christian Condor of Wanganui.

Condor’s winning time of 16min11sec in the M18 division was four seconds ahead of Jared.

Craig and Jared will join their brother Jeff for the Tasman Centre Cross Country Championships at the Waahi Taakaro Golf Course on July 18 and then compete in the New Zealand Cross Country Championships in Christchurch on August 1.