Piranha juniors eye off state’s best triahletes

MAKING WAVES: Xanthe Keegan, Kelsey Gray, Tom Tudor, Luc Nelson (kneeling), Connor Whiteley, Jessie Dean, Brooke Martin, Jack Bilton, Ethan Buesnel, Charlotte Simmons, Ben Broadley, Abby Dean & Rory Thornhill.

MAKING WAVES: Xanthe Keegan, Kelsey Gray, Tom Tudor, Luc Nelson (kneeling), Connor Whiteley, Jessie Dean, Brooke Martin, Jack Bilton, Ethan Buesnel, Charlotte Simmons, Ben Broadley, Abby Dean & Rory Thornhill.

AT first glance, it's probably quick to dismiss a place like Orange as a triathlon hub.

After all, it’s cold for nine months of the year, roads are narrow and often gravel, it snows, the water’s freezing, and, did we mention it’s cold?

With that in mind, it may then come as quite a shock to know the colour city boasts two triathletes as members of the state’s best emerging talent squad, while another is on the cusp on gaining entry.

And, if you ask HyPER triathlon coach Mel Ashton-Garard, that number could balloon in the coming years as the sport begins to take off in the region.

This weekend, Gosling Creek will set the scene for the Orange Cycle and Triathlon Club’s Junior Triathlon Festival, which, doubling as the Triathlon NSW Youth/Junior/Under 23s Super Sprint Championships, will attract some of the best young athletes from across the state.

With the calibre of opposition to soar, Ashton-Garard was expecting the going to be tough when her team competes on home soil – but she’s confident they’re up to the task.

“I think we bat quite well considering we’re only a small base,” Ashton-Garard said.

“We are increasing in depth. We have some very good top performers and that would be Connor Whiteley and Lauren Kerwick, part of the NSW emerging talent squad, which is the premier junior squad in NSW.

“There’s also young Jessie Dean and she’s in the talent identification NSW squad, so there’s a group of 15 athletes that form HyPER ... to get three of them at that level, and I’m pretty confident we’ll get more coming through.

I’d like to think we can get a few of the kids up the pointy end of the field. - Coach Mel Ashton-Garard

“We’ve created a real self-development culture, which all the kids are on board with.”

Overall, Ashton-Garard is predicting world junior aquathon champion Nathan Breen to be at the pointy end of the field in the under 23s category.

While, of the girls, Ellie Hoitink, from the ACT, will be a contender having been in position to claim last year’s junior female world championships crown.

The HyPER head coach said it’s a “fantastic opportunity for not just our juniors” to be tested against the best young talent in the country.

“Hopefully we’ll gain some confidence,” Ashton-Garard said.

“Hoping we’ve got a home town advantage being able to train out here at Gosling Creek, which we’ve been able to the last few weeks.

“I’d like to think we can get a few of the kids up the pointy end of the field but come away having worked with different coaches and new skills.”

There’s two types of racing at Gosling Creek on Saturday and Sunday, with draft legal and non-drafting juniors in action.

“There’s the draft legal and that’s the pathway through to the Olympics, and hopefully one day we get a kid from Orange in the Olympics for triathlon,” Ashton-Garard enthused.

The action starts from 10am on Saturday.

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