It is perhaps the most astounding win in the 50-year history of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club.
Venerable club founder Keith Haymes could not remember, let alone apprehend, that anyone, anywhere, could win a 16 kilometre handicap race by an unprecedented 7.12 minutes!
After placing second behind Dave Hunter in the 10km Youngs Sportspower Handicap the start before, Rhonda Rice sort of had the form on the board to go close to winning the Elwyn Haymes Memorial Handicap at Stawell last Saturday.
But since winning the 8km Lindsay Kent Memorial Handicap in June her efforts had been indifferent – a 5th, 6th and 7th before the Sportspower – but nothing to indicate such a relentless and commanding performance over a distance that many thought might be beyond her.
This from a woman who had no will to run at the start of the season, who “dreaded” the 16km challenge that awaited her, who had the reputation of being a moped one day and a Rolls Royce the next, but never a turbo-charged Rolls.
“I got lazy. I think I lost the plot for a while,” the 46-year-old explained.
“The motivation wasn’t there but after months of doing absolutely nothing I realised this wasn’t for me so I started training again, an hour every morning feeling my way through fog and the frost, and here I am – my first ever win over 16km.”
Even more remarkable were her “scalps.”
First and second across the line were two of the club’s most decorated runners over the past 10 years – Kieran Ryan who posted a personal best of 62.08 minutes and Nathaniel Warren, second on handicap, who chased Ryan all the way.
Third was Horsham’s Tim Harris, his first podium of the season. After a long haul trying to regain fitness, and succeeding at last.
With the longer distance races behind them, the club meets tomorrow (Saturday) at the Concongella Vineyard on the Navarre Road just outside of Stawell for the 6.5kilometre Garry Rice Handicap. Start time is 10am; fun runners are welcome. Sub-Juniors race over 1km.