Club stalwart Steve “Squeak” Baird achieved just about everything he wished for in 2010 when he broke a run of seconds to win the Horsham Telstra Store Handicap on the banks of the Wimmera River on Saturday.
Squeak won the Veterans 100 metres at the Stawell Gift meeting in April, the Veterans 300 metres at Ararat two days later and was crowned King of the Hill after winning the gruelling Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Cub event on August 1.
Last Saturday, in the 6500 metres T Store handicap, he hit the lead a long way from home and cruised to a comfortable win. Keith Lofthouse, who was passed by Steve with 1500 metres to run and urged him on, nabbed perennial placegetter Gaynor Radovic (five seconds, four thirds this season) in the last 100 metres to finish second, 23 ticks behind the winner.
Rhonda Clark clung on grimly to finish fourth in an effort that impressed Keith, who chased her for most of the way. “In terms of results, this is the best season I’ve ever had,” said Steve, who despite his 59 years of age has only been running seriously for 21 years.
Squeak had been runner-up in his previous three SAAC starts, but did not expect to win on Saturday, and had his sights set on the season finale, the club’s Big Hill race on September 11 to secure the “hill double” at Ararat and Stawell. Steve thought that the man to beat might be front-marker Gary Saunders who usually races well on the flattish bitumen track that skirts the river. But Gary blew any chance he might have had when he failed to turn around at the designated markers and disqualified himself, leaving invitee Hannah Blair with a huge lead and Steve chasing down the clubbies.
Having landed his quartet of wins, Squeak has no further goals this season but will now focus on the World Masters Athletics in Sacramento, California, in 2011 where he hopes to compete in the 100, 200 and perhaps 400 metres events.
Invitational runner Hannah Blair was first over the line and indicated that she might join the club next year.
The four kilometres junior division of the Telstra Store race was handsomely won by Tobias Blair from Paris Panozzo and Luca O’Flynn, while Layla Atherton easily won the sub-junior event.
By Keith Lofthouse