Rhonda Clark is one of those self-deprecating cross country runners who never thinks she has the ability to win but is as surprised as anyone when she does.
The Concongella “plodder” thought she would run the slowest time when she faced the starter in the Gary Howden-sponsored Telstra Shop Handicap at Horsham on Saturday, but her form before the race: sixth, ninth, third, seventh and tenth was unpredictable.
She could think of “no rhyme or reason” why everything clicked into place in the 6.5 kilometre Stawell Amateur Athletic Club race, leading most of the way and enjoying the luxury of a 1.19 minute winning margin from the Horsham-based runner-up Selina Heard-Price, with mentor, veteran Bob Freeland, a further 16 seconds behind.
Rhonda’s time of 32.34 minutes shone like a beacon from her most recent efforts over the same distance – about three minutes faster than she posted when only ninth in the same race last year.
And typically she was at a loss to explain how it all happened.
“I forgot to bring my water bottle from home, so there must be something in the Horsham water,” she guessed, which was a departure from the “Goldilocks porridge” she had for breakfast which she felt may have had something to do with her unexpected win in the Lindsay Kent Memorial Handicap last year.
More likely, her sudden improvement was a result of a more scientific attitude to training.
Under the tutelage of Bob Freeland, Rhonda has undertaken intensive “speed work” on a Monday night at Central Park and has also benefited from Rachel Coverdale’s Pump classes at the Stawell YMCA during the week.
She is fitter, faster and stronger in 2013 and was “fresh” after having a two day break from training before travelling to Horsham.
“I usually do some exercise every day so I was a bit more rested and it’s obviously made a difference,” she said.
There was plenty of daylight between the first four to finish but a mere 19 seconds separated the next seven and the Sub-Juniors race was likewise hotly contested. Chanel Scollary finished with a blistering burst to account for a determined Logan Casey, just five seconds in arrears, with Armani Scollary, chasing her sister a further five seconds behind.
By Keith Lofthouse