Close-knit trio are winners
Wells, Phillips and Berry taste success at Tauranga Half
Success seems to breed success in Hannah Wells’ household. Three people who set off for the 30th Tauranga Half from her Tauranga home on Saturday morning won their divisions — Christchurch’s Mike Phillips was the first man to finish, Wells was first woman back and Wells’ partner Nick Berry was part of the first-placed team.
The three are friends, with Phillips coming up to stay with the couple for the Tauranga Half Ironman weekend, going over training and gear ahead of Saturday’s race.
“This race kind of brings us together,” Phillips said.
Phillips was the first person to complete the 2km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run in a time of 3 hours, 49 minutes and 5 seconds and Wells was the first woman to cross the line in 4h 13m 19s.
It was the first time the pair had secured individual wins at the iconic Tauranga event — in 2018 Phillips was second man home in a time of 3h 55m and 47s and Wells was sixth woman in 4h 37m 20s. Berry completed the run leg of the Tauranga Half as part of Team Steel Springs Performance Coaching team. He, Sam Kettle (swimming) and Aaron Strong (cycling) were the first team home in 3h 50m and 16s.
For Wells, it was her first major win in her pro career and achieving that in her home town was a milestone for the elite athlete prompted by 12 months of consistent hard work.
As Wells made her way to the finish line on Saturday morning, she was met with cheering crowds, ending her race with a big smile on her face.
Going into the event, her biggest concern was coming up against strong swimmers in her weakest leg.
Rebecca Clark and Teresa Adam were first out of the water, completing the 2km swim in 24m 23s, with Amelia Watkinson and Wells coming out of the harbour together, trailing by 1m 43s.
Wells rode the bike leg with Watkinson, trailing by two minutes on Clark and Adam throughout the 90km bike.
Heading into final run leg, Wells gained time in her transition to put a break on Watkinson before hauling in Clark and Adam. She hit the lead on the first of the two-lap course, and maintained it to the finish.
She was happy with every part of her race, with the biggest struggle “just being in the lead and not knowing how fast the girls behind me were running”.
Phillips said his biggest hurdle was the heat at the end, but generally he felt good.
Phillips’ win follows an impressive 2018, which included placing second at last year’s Tauranga Half, finishing fifth at Ironman NZ, 16th at the Ironman World Championship in his first crack at Hawaii’s iconic Kona course, winning the Challenge event in Melbourne, and the Taupo¯ 70.3 in December.
He said the win was a good sign leading into Ironman New Zealand, being held in Taupo¯ on March 2.
“The goal this year is to at least get on the podium,” Phillips said.
Berry said he was trying to catch Wells so he could watch her finish, but was unable to. Only narrowly missing her, a smiling Berry made a beeline for Wells and gave her a hug.
The trio planned to celebrate the wins on Saturday before what has become a bit of a traditional Mauao climb for them the day after the event.
Next for Wells is Challenge Wanaka on February 16. It will be her final race in New Zealand this triathlon season before heading to Australia and, possibly, Asia. She has no plans of increasing her distance at this stage.
The winners of the 2019 Tauranga Half Ironman, from left, Tauranga’s Hannah Wells and Mike Phillips from Christchurch, about to cross the finish line.
The day after winning Tauranga Half, Hannah Wells, Mike Phillips (centre) and Nick Berry head up Mauao.