Veteran campaigner Keith Lofthouse turned the sense of old failures into back to back victories in the five kilometre Ivan McDonald Hairdressing Handicap last Saturday.
Keith recalled running second in the prestigious Eaglehawk to Bendigo road race in 2002, thinking it would be “the closest I’ll ever get to glory”, when he made plans to defend last year’s win in the Lois Trimble Handicap at Stawell’s Big Hill.
“Many years ago,” said Keith, “a wise old mentor by the name of Frank Neill told me how to run the hills into Bendigo and I always went really well there, without ever winning, so I still equate it to failure.”
He added, “running the Big Hill at Stawell is much like Bendigo, only in reverse. You start uphill at Bendigo and downhill at Stawell, but you have to attack from the outset because the downhill sections are fast and your opponents are hard to catch if they already have a start.”
Keith prepared in a somewhat unorthodox manner for the Stawell race by running the 15.2 km Grampians Springtime Classic, from Moyston to Ararat, only six days before.
“Someone said it wasn’t an ideal event to tackle before a five kilometre race but I thought it was perfect.,” said keith. “It had big hills, with bitumen all the way, and Stawell is nearly the same. The main thing was to freshen up for the shorter race, which I did by having an easy week just running sprints.”
In stretching a 1 min 35 secs gap between himself and runner-up Gary Howden, Keith scored one of the easiest wins of the year, but still ran two seconds slower than his winning time in 2009.
“I might have attacked too fiercely early on,” Keith reasoned, “but I think the Moyston to Ararat probably took the edge off Rhonda Clark, Gaynor Radovic and maybe a couple of others, so the winning margin flattered me. I was happy to be able to cling onto the tail of Garry Rice, because he usually beats me out of sight, so I knew I was in with a chance, if I could stick with him.”
The Big Hill race, as usual, marked the end of the SAAC’s 18-race season.
In the junior section of the race, Paris Panozzo was too strong for Tobias Blair, while Layla Atherton took out sub-junior event.
Gaynor Radovic had an unassailable lead in the open Club Aggregate going into the race, in which she finished fifth, and easily accounted for David McAllister and Keith Lofthouse, who got up to tie for second. David and Nathaniel Warren are Open Men club champions and the ever-reliable Kim Baker won the Open Women’s title.
Tobias won the Junior Aggregate, but there was an unprecedented three-way tie for the honour of Junior Club Champion between Raine Mackley, Luca O’Flynn and Liam Scott.
By Keith Lofthouse