The Stawell Amateur Athletic Club staged its very own Clash of the Titans when orienteering giant Andrew Barnett and schoolboy champion Tom Walker fought out the finish of the five kilometre One More Step for Ray at Stawell last Saturday.
Under the handicap conditions of the race, which honours the memory of club legend Ray Rickard who passed away last December, the student had to give the Stawell College science and physics teacher 1.40 minutes start.
Walker clocked the fastest time, a scintillating 16.42 the minutes on a course that challenges with a strength-sapping uphill climb to the finish. But the teenager won’t find a more formidable opponent in Stawell than Barnett who matched motors for most of the way, though his margin was cut to just 37 seconds in the end. The fastest female, Jess Cass, was an honourable third.
In terms of fitness, Barnett was rock hard having just returned from Scotland where he won a highland games hill race that tests an athlete’s mettle over four kilometres up a steep and forbidding climb, and then four down.
A world class orienteer who has represented Australia in Eastern Europe and in New Zealand, Barnett is a novice at cross country competition, and this was his first ever win at only his second run with the club.
After the winning sash was presented, Barnett drove to Ballarat for a gruelling training exercise in outlying forest, dotted with old goldmining shafts, diggings and mounds, which are ideal for plotting orienteering courses. (Orienteering is running at speed in often rugged terrain, using a map and compass to navigate from point to point).
“I run seven days a week,” the dedicated Barnett said. “At least one run is up to two hours, and I mix it up with three or four tempo runs (at various speeds).”
The affable athlete is in serious training for the Dunkeld Peaks and Trails Run (up to 50 kilometres) in early August, followed weeks later by the 25 kilometre Ultralong Orienteering Championships in Canberra on August 26.
Budding cross country runners contested the one kilometre Sub Junior event won by Horsham visitor Logan Casey from the Moloney siblings, Will and Romy.
The club joins the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club this Sunday for the eight kilometre Best’s Cross Country Classic, at Best’s Winery from 9.15am. Fun runners are welcome.