Almost to the day after breaking a five year drought in winning the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s Chris Blake Handicap last year, injured veteran Stephen Baird scored back to back wins in the same race at Great Western racecourse last Saturday.
Baird, once a regular winner on the region’s track and cross country circuit, was almost crippled when he tore his hamstring from the bone competing in a 200 metres race in Melbourne in March, 2014.
“I heard it crack like a whip and should have had surgery when I first did the damage because I’ve been struggling ever since,” he said.
Baird carried the remnants of a virus and a stomach upset into the Blake, but he was always going to be hard to beat on the short course which favoured front markers.
“The way I am at the moment, three kilometres is all I can manage with any comfort. I just haven’t been able to get the kilometres into my legs to really get my fitness and stamina up to scratch.”
To Baird’s advantage was the fact that the club’s elite backmarkers had to give him too much start and the race developed into a battle of the battle-scarred seniors, with Keith Lofthouse failing by 10 seconds to overhaul the winner and Bob Freeland third, just another four seconds behind.
In the Sub-Juniors half-distance version of the Blake, Eloise Ryan denied Horsham visitor Jordan Nitschke his second straight win in the race, with Tom Urquhart a brave third.
The club’s finale this Saturday is the five kilometre Ivan McDonald Handicap at Stawell’s One Tree Hill. The season will officially end with the club’s 50th anniversary dinner at the North Park clubrooms on Friday, September 23. All past members and supporters are invited.