Skipping races in Stawell to venture to Melbourne for two events sharpened up veteran campaigner Keith Lofthouse, who went on to take out the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s season finale at Big Hill last Saturday.
Lofthouse finished a creditable sixth in the 16 kilometre George Perdon Memorial Handicap at Keilor on August 30 but then struggled to back up in the five kilometre Westgate Bridge Memorial at Port Melbourne.
“After the 16k I had nothing left to give at Westgate, but the two races being so close together toughened me up for Big Hill,” Lofthouse said.
With the temperature rising and the wind howling, Lofthouse relished the fast downhill start of the five kilometre handicap, sponsored by former club president Lois Trimble, and made good ground on the front markers before commencing the first of two grueling uphill climbs.
After hauling in Axel Meumann, Gary Saunders and a fighting Sharon Howden, Lofthouse was feeling the heat and “ran scared” for the 500 metres climb to the finish, expecting the back markers to overwhelm him.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever won a race up a decent-sized hill,” said Lofthouse, who had also triumphed earlier in the season on a flat and fast track at Rupanyup.
Ray Scott, a superior uphill runner, and Horsham’s Gary Howden, a downhill dynamo, had a gentlemanly battle, exchanging places more than once during the race. At one time Howden actually apologised to Scott as he swept past him on the decline.
Once the going got tough, however, Scott rallied, and powered past the gallant Susie Ellis and Sharon Howden late in the race to finish second, with club champion Nathaniel Warren charging into third place after another ding-dong duel with talented rookie, David McAllister.
Warren, who won the Keith Haymes club aggregate in 2007, recorded fastest time to put an official seal on the aggregate again in 2009.