One of the club’s most decorated runners, Col Barnett, completed a satisfying comeback with a last gasp win in the five kilometre Steve Baird Handicap in the Ironbarks Forest last Saturday.
In the final nail-biting 100 metres, supporters on all sides roared encouragement as the 2003-2006 club champion closed quickly on the front-running tearaways Rhonda Clark and Gaynor Radovic to claim victory in the last few bounds. It was the most dramatic finish to a club event in years; Col’s winning margin was a mere two seconds over the courageous Rhonda, with the ever-consistent Gaynor only three seconds behind her in third place.
The race was a handicapper’s dream with Paul Atherton steaming home into fourth place, only seven seconds off the podium.
Col, who missed virtually all of the 2009 season with a troublesome hamstring strain, hadn’t won a club race for three years…and gave himself little chance as he began the demanding one-kilometre climb uphill to the finish, still with five runners to catch. “The only thing in my favour,” he said, “was that I knew that those in front of me would be tiring and I would have the momentum. Rhonda and Gaynor still had a good break within sight of the finish, but the last little rise just found them out and I was able to win with nothing left in the tank.”
Like reigning club champion Nathaniel Warren, Col feels he is “fresher and faster”, managing his body on a lighter training program, running just 30 kilometres between races rather than the 50-plus of a few years back.
Nathaniel Warren again recorded fastest time of 18.44 and seems to have established some superiority over arch rival, David McAllister, at least over the shorter distances. It will be fascinating to see if David can turn the tables on his younger opponent in the club’s last race over a “real” distance this season – the 11 kilometres Oscar Furniture Handicap at Trooper’s Camp on August 21.
The junior division of the race was impressively won by the promising Raine Mackley in a very smart time of 22.29, beating many of the senior runners. It was Raine’s second win in the junior ranks this season.
Lily O’Flynn was successful in the Sub-Junior division and will soon need an extra cupboard for her trophies and certificates.
By Keith Lofthouse