Champion schoolboy athlete Tom Walker added yet another feather to his colourfully plumed cap when he brilliantly won the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s King of the Mountain at Halls Gap last Saturday.
During the week, the sixteen-year-old speedster had smashed peer-group runners to win the 800, 1500, and 3000 metres events at the Great Western regional schools athletics but in the five kilometre King of the Mountain Walker took on all comers, of all ages and led all the way to win easily.
Consistently fastest for the entire season, Walker shared the podium with the club’s most improved runner Jess Cass who has been the fastest female this year.
Walker treated the lung-sapping uphills, tricky downhills and water hazards with disdain and clocked a sizzling 18.10 minutes but even that wasn’t enough to overhaul veteran campaigner Bob Freeland who won the handicap division of the race.
When named the overall winner, Freeland dropped his water bottle in shock and then told onlookers that injury caused him to seriously consider “pulling the plug” on his fifty-year running career.
“I thought I was finished; I didn’t think I’d ever win a race again,” the sixty-eight-year old said.
“I couldn’t get my feet right, and even after a long rest I struggled. I couldn’t get fit, but I persevered training on grass and I reckon that’s helped get me over some of my niggles. Of course, I’ve got to thank the handicapper, too.”
Having not won a race for two years, Freeland received a staggering sixteen minutes start from Walker, a tribute as much to the youngster’s brilliance as to the veteran’s recent lack of success.
In the Sub Junior event, Jack Urquhart, Chloe Hunter and Jay Jay Nitschke won medals and earned bragging rights over their older siblings, Tom, Olivia and Jordan, who had to give them starts.
The club’s penultimate race of the season, the three kilometre Chris Blake Handicap, will be run at the North Park running track on Saturday. Fun runners are welcome.