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Tarawera Ultra Trail by UTMB 102km results 2024: Kiwi pair Jones and Croft dominate

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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Kiwi pair Daniel Jones and Ruth Croft underlined why they were the big pre-race favourites as they took the titles in the 102km event at Tarawera Ultra-Trail by UTMB.

Jones notched a second successive victory by completing the course in a blistering 7:46:42, finishing more than 40 minutes ahead of American Justin Grunewald in second, with South Africa’s Matt Healy another 30 minutes behind in third.

Croft, the winner in 2021, was the first woman home – and fifth overall – as she clocked 9:14:14, nearly 24 minutes in front of Beth McKenzie (USA).

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Upward trajectory

Jones’ impressive win last year set the tone for a breakout season of ultra-trail racing which saw the Kiwi finish fifth at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and 12th at UTMB in France.

This latest victory, giving him two wins out of two attempts at the Tarawera 102km race, further cements his rapidly growing stature on the world stage of ultra running.

Daniel Jones on course during the 2024 Tarawera Ultra-Trail by UTMB photo credit Cameron McKenzie
Daniel Jones en route to victory [Photo credit: Cameron McKenzie]

“The feeling is undeniable, backing up in an ultra just really means a lot because anything can happen out there in ultramarathons and to back up is just huge because you go out there with a plan and to execute the plan is just awesome,” said Jones.

“I put Tarawera 2023 down as one of my most successful races I’ve ever done and to go overseas after that was a huge experience for me but to come back and win here again, in front of my home crowd, in front of my parents and my friends was really amazing,” he said. “The local crowd, cheering me home, all the way around the course, so good.”

Jones was able to execute his race strategy seamlessly, going out hard from start, stretching his lead early on and never relenting his pace throughout the race.

“The race plan, I just wanted to show that I had another really big race in me like 2023 and so I went hard from the gun and I kind of just went out on my own,” he said.

“I thought to myself, if I could just push a good pace and hit my targets that I’d put into my race plan, nail my nutrition, then I could put together a really good time which I did. The course was tougher than last year, and I was only about 15 minutes slower so I’m really happy with that.”

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Croft a class apart

Tarawera Ultra-Trail is a qualifying race for the 2025 UTMB World Series Finals at UTMB Mont-Blanc, with the top three male and female elites in the Tarawera 102km securing direct entry into the CCC (100km) race at UTMB Mont-Blanc and that had been a big aim for women’s winner Croft, who hails from the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island but spends most of her time training and racing overseas

She said: “One of the reasons I came back to race here is I wanted to qualify for UTMB 2025, and it just made sense. This is my fourth time at Tarawera, it’s always nice to run on home soil and it’s good timing in the year as well. It’s super special, there’s no race like it that has the finish line welcoming like that.”

Ruth Croft receiving the women's 102km Tarawera Ultra-Trail by UTMB trophy after her victory Photo credit: Cameron McKenzie
Ruth Croft receiving the women’s 102km Tarawera Ultra-Trail by UTMB trophy [Photo credit: Cameron McKenzie]

Though Croft’s win was ultimately convincing, she says she was given a scare with about 15km to go when she received a split from the sidelines telling her that second placed McKenzie was just six minutes behind – when in reality the gap was much bigger.

“I’m feeling relieved, pleased I made it to the finish line,” added Croft. “I started off probably a bit too hot and then paid for it in the middle, and then was able to rally in the end. I got a split going into the 87km aid station, I was told I only had six minutes and that I needed to get moving and so I ran a bit scared until the redwoods but then I still had a bit left in the tank, so it was okay.”

Tarawera Ultra-Trail, New Zealand – Saturday 17th February 2024

T102 RESULTS – WOMEN

  1. Ruth Croft (NZL) – 9:14:14
  2. Beth McKenzie (USA) – 9:38:03
  3. Nikki Everton (NZL) – 10:26:53

T102 RESULTS – MEN

  1. Daniel Jones (NZL) – 7:46:42
  2. Justin Grunewald (USA) – 8:25:57
  3. Matthew Healy (ZAF) – 8:58:43
Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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