Thursday, February 22, 2024

Cousins shatter women’s shearing records

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Megan Whitehead and Hannah McColl power through, surpassing established and brand new performances.
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In this year’s Land Champions edition, we celebrate domestic and imported people in agriculture, from the Italian clan that owns a slice of North Otago wool production to the teacher rebooting ag education in the hort heartland if western Bay of Plenty.

New world shearing record-holding cousins Megan Whitehead and Hannah McColl sure knew how to get the biggest season of tally-busting in New Zealand off to a big start when they shattered two targets recently.

In the space of eight hours’ shearing, between 7am and 5pm with morning and afternoon tea-breaks and lunch in between, they smashed the women’s eight-hours solo and two-stands strongwool lambs records, with Whitehead’s tally being 25 more than that she shore to claim the nine-hours record two years ago.

Shearing at Grant Brothers Tin House, on Otapiri-Mandeville Rd near Gore, Whitehead sheared two-hour runs of 174, 171, 172 and 169 for a total of 686 and McColl sheared 153, 144, 151 and 149 for a total of 597.

The combined total of 1283 beat the previous two-stands record of 903 for strongwool lambs set by mother-and-daughter Marg and Ingrid Baynes at Mangapehi, near Bennydale, on January 13, 2009, and Whitehead’s 686 set a new solo record, beating the 601 shorn by Sacha Bond on February 4 this year, at Fairlight Station, Northern Southland.

It could have been more, Whitehead having three others discounted by the panel of five World Sheep Shearing Records Society referees and McColl losing 10, according to society secretary and records registrar Hugh McCarroll.

“That’s what we have referees for,” he said, still marvelling at the women’s achievement. “Megan was still running in and out of the catching pens at the end, just as she was at the beginning.”

It was enough to suggest there will be more for the 27-year-old Whitehead, whose nine-hours record of 661, shorn on January 14, 2021, will be challenged by Bond on Tuesday at Centrehill, near Mossburn.

Friday’s records were the first of eight record bids so far scheduled in New Zealand this summer, with Bond’s big day out followed by Masterton shearers Paerata Abraham and Chris Dickson tackling the men’s eight-hours solo and two-stand records on Saturday (two days before Christmas) at Whitespurs, east of Wairarapa township Gladstone.

McCarroll said the spate of record attempts, the most ever in a New Zealand season, sparks memories of the late 1970s when Samson (Hamahona) Te Whata, based on a record of 637 shorn by Jack Dowd in 1977, staged a ping-pong of six successful challenges for the nine-hours lambs record, raising the bar from Kaikohe gun Te Whata’s 650 in November 1979 to Te Kuiti master Fagan’s 804 in December 1980. 

When Marg and Ingrid Baynes shore the women’s eight-hours record 15 years ago, Ingrid established a solo record with a tally of 470. Kerri-Jo Te Huia set a new mark of 507 at Te Hape, also near Bennydale on January 10, 2012, New Zealand-based Canadian Pauline Bolay sheared 510 at Whitford Farms, Waikaretu, on December 7, 2019, and Bond added 91 to the record 10 months ago.

The equivalent men’s records are the solo mark of 754 shorn by Jack Fagan at Puketiti, near Piopio, on December 22 last year, two days after Reuben Alabaster sheared 744 to break a record that hadstood for  decade, and the two-stands record of 1410 shorn by Simon Goss and Jamie Skiffington at The Glades, Mangamahu Valley, on January 4 this year, breaking a record that had endured 20 years.

Under revised rules establish in 1983, a women’s nine-hour lambs record was established on January 6, 1989, when Jillian Angus Burney sheared 541 near Bennydale, the record going unchallenged for almost 19 years before Emily Welch shearer 648 at Waikaretu on November 27, 2007.

Under a previous regime, Maureen Hyatt had shorn 569 near Mossburn on February 5, 1982. 

The men’s record of 872 was shorn in Cornwall, England, on July 31, 2016, by Oxfordshire shearer Stuart Connor, who has recently moved to New Zealand and is living in Hawke’s Bay.

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