Teenager crowned king
RUNNING: Records tumbled as 17-year-old Hayden Wilde took out the 56th annual Pomona King of the Mountain in a sprint finish yesterday.
This year's edition of the race was a celebration of its long history of trans-Tasman rivalry with the largest team of New Zealanders entering.
Wilde made his first trip to Australia and became the youngest ever winner of the KOTM with a time of 25min42sec, with countryman Shay Williamson just behind him at 25.56.
Wilde said he was terrified of Williamson coming into the final stretch.
"He was just behind me on the flat and he was just about to catch me, but I got over the final little hill and pulled away," he said.
"He looked pretty scary.
"He was pretty much breathing down my neck."
The race started and finished in the town centre, but not before taking the runners through a winding and sometimes near vertical and metre-wide track that often sees participants crash out.
Wilde's race was not without drama as he struggled to navigate the rocky conditions of Mt Cooroora.
"It's pretty epic coming down the hill," he said.
"It was an absolute blaze - it was pretty intense.
"We were just running and each other and rocks were flying everywhere.
"My downhill isn't very good so I just had to charge it.
"You're pretty much just hitting in hope that your foot lands on a rock.
"I'm pretty clumsy so I rolled my ankle about four or five times."
Williamson was the winner of New Zealand's sister race at Mount Edgecumbe and came in as hot favourite to this year's event, but he was unable to pip the youngster.
Bryce Hegarty finished third.
Winner of the previous two years, Ben Duffus, didn't compete while 36-year-old record holder Neil Labinsky made his comeback race but could only manage a fourth placing.
Labinsky who holds the course record of 22.43, also holds the record for most wins and returned to add to his tally of seven wins after taking a year off.
On the other end of the spectrum from Wilde, 44-year-old Leslie Saunders was the first woman to cross the line with a time of 33.14 with junior Dominica Fitzsimon coming second in 35.20. They were followed by Angela Haynes.
The race wasn't without a fair representation of veterans as half-Kiwi half-Aussie Barry Prosser crossed the line in his sixth Pomona KOTM.
Prosser has also completed 13 Edgecumbe KOTMs and holds the Pomona veteran record of 24.32, which he set in 1997.
The first Pomona KOTM began when local footballer Bruce Samuells announced to the local pub that he could conquer the mountain in under an hour.