Close-knit trio are win­ners

Wells, Phillips and Berry taste suc­cess at Tau­ranga Half

Bay of Plenty Times - - SPORT - Kristin Macfar­lane

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.

Pho­tos / An­drew Warner

Photo / Ge­orge No­vak

The day af­ter win­ning Tau­ranga Half, Han­nah Wells, Mike Phillips (cen­tre) and Nick Berry head up Mauao.

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