The cream rose to the top for the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club last Saturday when schoolboy champion Tom Walker and multiple times club champion Col Barnett fought out the finish of the five kilometre Horsham Physiotherapy and Podiatry Handicap at Stawell.
In Walker’s first full season with the club, the sixteen-year-old flyer finally shook off the “bridesmaid” tag after finishing second in five previous races to score his maiden victory, and clearly not his last.
Making light of sharply twisting turns and muddy hazards, Walker ran fast and fearless and even defied a pre-race warning not to hurdle a fallen tree, but take a safer, slower alternative through scrub.
Barnett had chased relentlessly but rejoicing in a rare injury-free season he chose wisdom over valour, not risking a nasty fall to follow the spring-heeled Tom over obstacles.
As it happened, the precious seconds Walker saved may have been decisive because the youngster’s winning margin over the veteran was just twenty-seven seconds with the always steady last start winner, Matilda Iglesias, in third place.
Walker, winding down his preparation for the Australian Cross Country Championships in Wollongong on August 26 under the guidance of coach, Keith Haymes, has a stellar career ahead of him.
He dares to dream of future Olympic representation with the 5000 metres in his sights.
“People keep asking me what I want to achieve with my running, and I guess the Olympics is the ultimate dream,” he said.
“I get help from a lot of people and I’m inspired by role models like Steve Moneghetti who I had a one-on-one with in a Ballarat café last year. He impressed upon me that as a runner, you can run anywhere. You don’t really need state of the art gear or equipment, but the thing you most need is commitment.”
Walker is already passing on much that he has learned to nine-year-old Will Moloney who blitzed youngsters in the one kilometre Sub Juniors race and then ran a sparkling race against the seniors.
The club returns to the Ironbarks on Saturday for the eight kilometre Stawell Toyota and Kia Handicap. Fun runners are welcome.