Warm dry conditions greeted the 22 senior, 7 junior and 11 sub-junior cross country runners who lined up for the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club Stephen Baird Handicap.
The course took in the Bonnie Dundee Dam at the north end of the Iron Bark Reserve, with a few long steady hill climbs, and the most challenging climb just before the finish line.
Both seniors and juniors competed at the same time over 5000m, and there was a fair amount of competition between the two groups.
Horsham runner Peter Blair, having completed a grueling triathlon the week before, made his presence felt early in the race by setting a fast pace. Last weeks winner, Craig Turner, after a slight adjustment to his handicap, could only keep the leaders in sight, despite putting in a sterling effort.
Back markers Charlie Jones and Col Barnett threw down a challenge to the strong finishing Blair, but couldn’t quite reel him in, with Blair crossing the line in first place with a time of 23min 12sec.
Charlie Jones wasn’t far behind in second place, with Col Barnett third, and also posting the fastest time of the day of 19min 16sec. Fastest ladies time was Susie Ellis in 23min 46sec, finishing 7th place overall.
Mid field competition is starting to hot up, with many runners finding a return of race form, and consequently are starting to work their way up through the placings.
The juniors set off with the seniors over 5000m, created some healthy competition, and certainly encouraging some seniors to better times.
Ilana Jorgenson ran extremely well over the challenging course to take first place in a good time of 25min 27sec, which also made her the fastest junior girl.
Lochie Ellis crossed the line second, with Nathan Watson coming in third. Thomas Blair was fourth and ran the fastest junior time of 24min 22sec.
There were 11 starters in the sub-junior 1000m out and back course, with Chloe Jamieson hanging on to win the challenging handicap race in a good time of 5min 32sec. Minor placings went to Mackenzie Ellis and third place to Jack Butler, who ran the fastest sub-junior time of 3min 52sec.
Fastest girl was Stacey Faravoni with a time of 4min 06sec. Young Liam Burns competed in his first run with the Stawell club.