Thinking herself more as a jogger than a runner, Rhonda Clark questioned whether the timekeepers had made a mistake when she turned failure into a confounding form reversal to win the combined clubs’ prestigious eight kilometre L. W. Kent Memorial Handicap.
Rhonda, who ran a lackluster 19th on her home track at the Concongella Vineyards just six days before, when she was expected to do very much better, turned all the pre-race babble about who might win into post-race prattle about “how did she win?”
It’s fair to say that Rhonda is not the most focused of runners. At the club’s Horsham race May 5 she got lost on a well-marked eight kilometre course when nobody else got lost!
Ever serene and unfussed, this time, after winning the Kent, she was nonplussed. “Oh, I don’t know, I just pulled one out of the hat!,” she shrugged. “It seems odd, but I didn’t much like the course; all those twists and turns, each one looking the same. I think it worked in my favour; it wasn’t very scenic and was very sandy, I just wanted to get it over with as quickly as I could, so I put the pedal to the metal.”
Receiving 13 minutes start from the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club rocket, Simon Gallagher, Rhonda felt that she was getting repeatedly bogged in the sand and gave herself no hope of winning – so much so that she left the course and was not at the clubroom presentation to receive her sash.
“I had my Goldilocks porridge for breakfast and maybe that was it (that wasn’t it). I was also pretty motivated by the fiasco at Horsham and I didn’t want to lose sight of other runners, just in case it happened again.”
Simon led all the way and thought that he might have won on handicap after zooming over the eight kilometres in a sparkling 32.02 and having 17 seconds to spare over the recently retired footballer, Dale Hurley who’d won on debut for the SACCC at Concongella.
The Kent attracted a large and talented field who were rewarded with fine conditions, in contrast to the blizzard they encountered last year.
The Ararat Club earned bragging rights by winning the Telstra Shop Shield for the fourth time in six contests.
Our own Gary Howden, second in two previous outings this season, continued his consistent form to win the SAAC division of the race from Rhonda (who ran for both clubs). Phil Romeril – a newcomer to any kind of sport – ran on doggedly to mount the podium for the first time; the first time in his life, as a matter of fact!
Luca O’Flynn overcame a near catastrophe, when he attempted to turn around at the wrong mark, to score a determined win in the Junior division of the race, while Chanel Scollary skipped away to a stylish win in the Sub-Juniors event.
By Keith Lofthouse