Alyce hits top 10 in first outing
By Tony White
Alyce Bennett overcame swarms of blue bottles, thick seaweed and the cream of Australia's best women surf life saving competitors to finish 10th in the Kellog's Nutri Grain Series at Coogee Beach yesterday.
Watched by her parents Grant and Jo, her sisters Angie, Alannah and several close friends, the former Yamba-based SLSC member turned in an incredible performance in the rich and prestigious event.
Bennett, now racing for North Burleigh, qualified 17th in the 20-women field for Nutri Grain Series finals at her first attempt.
In three tough rounds at Coogee on Saturday, battling blue bottles, sea weed and elimination, Bennett made it through to the top 10 final qualifiers.
Her steely determination in the final eliminator on Saturday, when 15 competitors fought it out for only 10 spots, earned her "an amazing experience.
"I was coming 13th in the final board leg and they only took 10 through to Sunday. I managed to pick up two girls then thought, 'yeah, I want this' and scraped home in 10th to qualify.
"I just couldn't believe I'd made it through and now I don't have to qualify for next year's event. The top 10 from this year go through automatically."
Several competitors were treated for blue bottle stings and glandular swelling.
"They (blue bottles) were really bad on Saturday, shocking," Bennett said. "A couple of the girls got really badly stung, especially Crystal Smith. She had welts all over her back.
"The pack swum right into a swarm of them.
"I just put plenty of vasoline on and stayed in the middle of the pack."
Bennett was unable to advance further yesterday finishing 10th in the first eliminator, but nonetheless she was rightfully over the moon at her performance.
"Awesome, just sensational," she said. "Initially I was just hoping to get through the first round or two coming in 17th ranked.
"To get into the top 10 and not have to qualify next year is just unreal. I'm really stoked. This is all so unexpected."
Bennett picked up $2000 prizemoney for her efforts.
"Mum and Dad are in the hotel celebrating, they'll spend a bit of that," she said, joking.
"It was great to have them, my sisters and friends here.
"It's been an awesome experience. I didn't know what to expect, this kind of racing is one of a kind. Next year I'll know better how to prepare and race."