Veteran athlete Stephen Baird, once a regular winner on the region’s track and cross country circuits but almost crippled by injury 18 months ago, ended a five year drought when he won the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s three kilometre Chris Blake Handicap at Stawell last Saturday.
Baird tore his hamstring from the bone, “heard it crack like a whip”, when competing in a 200 metres master’s championship in Melbourne in March last year and has been stepping on eggshells since, gently trying to repair the damage which has taken much longer than expected to heal.
A winner of a veteran’s 100 metre handicap at the Stawell Gift in 2010 and a King of the Hill winner at Ararat the same year, Baird hasn’t won a race anywhere since and is still uncertain whether he will need surgery to augment his long and painful recovery.
“In hindsight I should have had surgery when I first did the damage, but mentally I wasn’t right for it then,” he said. “With plenty of rest, virtually six months off walking and doing very little else, I thought it might have come good, but I still feel a niggling tightness and I’ve developed a cyst as well so I’m a long way from being able to stretch out as much as I’d like.”
The 65-year-old has another appointment with a specialist in Melbourne this week and his win in the Blake gives him a little more confidence he can avoid the surgery that might or might not be successful.
After such a long absence from the winner’s list, Baird took advantage of a favourable handicap to easily win the race by over a minute from an improving Justine Tracey and perennial placegetter, Gary Saunders.
Only 1.20 minutes separated the next nine runners to finish after Baird.
The Sub Juniors race was won in dashing style by Jordan Nitschke from Kayla Membrey and Tex Tracey who had also placed a week before.
The season ends with the five kilometre Ivan McDonald Big Hill Handicap at Stawell tomorrow. Fun runners are welcome and should meet at the rotunda from 9.30am.