At the start of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s cross country season in April, Colin Barnett’s unlikely goal was to compete in all twenty-one races.
It seemed like a futile target. The fifty-four-year-old Horsham veteran had endured a long and frustrating sequence of calf strains and niggles and had not completed a full season since 2005.
But Barnett defied the odds with a stellar season free from injury, culminating in a haul of four awards at the club’s presentation night last Friday.
Barnett was crowned the Ian Notting Open Male champion for the sixth time (his first since 2011), but also won the Keith Haymes Aggregate, the Veteran Male and Ray Rickard Teams trophy. He picked up the same quartet of honours in 2006.
Barnett was a generous winner, paying tribute to Tom Walker, the sixteen-year-old schoolboy champion who, having to give massive starts to his slower club mates in the handicap races all year, finished second six times during the season, winning just once.
“It’s pretty clear that Tom is blessed with talent and is the fastest and best we have,” Barnett said. “I had the advantage of running more races than he did and that just swung the points in my favour.”
The club’s most improved performer, Jess Cass, easily won the Open Female title, with 2016 winner Matilda Iglesias the runner-up.
Iglesias, whose progress was stalled by an early-season back injury, recovered in time to overhaul Horsham’s Sharon Howden and Vicki Tyler who tied for second in the Veteran Female category.
Seven-year-old Olivia Hunter repeated her 2016 success in the Robert Freeland Sub-Junior competition, but this time narrowly accounted for her five-year-old sister, Chloe.