Third in the first race of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season and second in the next it didn’t seem likely that Jess Cass would have to wait seventeen races before breaking through in the sixteen kilometre Life Members Handicap, her first win in over two years.
In the forty starts since winning Best’s Cross Country Classic in 2017 she has managed five seconds, a third and a fistful of PB’s (personal bests) thereby earning enough credits not to tempt the handicapper into doing her any favours.
One of the club’s most resilient and dedicated runners, Cass trains hard and races hard so it is perhaps significant that her drought-breaker came while navigating the lung-sapping figure-eight course through the Stawell Ironbarks.
It is fair to say that the winner was well overdue having finished second and third in the club’s longest and toughest race in 2017-18.
“I ran about 2.20 minutes faster this year than last year,” she said, “and that’s what I always set out to do, to run PBs, and I already have a few of those this year.”
Remarkably, her PB could not have been more timely, given that her winning margin over Horsham visitor Graeme Eldridge was just 1.08 minutes with perennial placegetter Terry Jenkins just six seconds further astern.
The race, in fact, was a triumph for handicapper David Hunter – just fifty-two seconds separated the first five to finish, with Hunter himself a close fourth.
For the thirty-three-year-old Cass, the 16 kilometre race was a useful warm up for the 100 kilometre Surf Coast Century relay race from Anglesea on September 21 in which she intends to run a 25 kilometre leg with team-mates.
“It felt really good out there today,” she said, “and I’m benefitting from mixing up my training with speed sessions at Central Park on Monday and running two five kilometre sessions with the Run With Chicks group on Wednesdays.
“I’ve also learnt that I to run my long distance sessions more slowly. It’s called ‘LSD for long, slow, discipline’ and every runner who has goals have to include that in their workouts.”
In the one kilometre Sub Junior scamper, the much improved Kelsey Hurley notched back-to-back wins in her narrow defeat of consistent youngsters Joshua Robinson and Kade Santuccione.
The club travels to Halls Gap this Saturday for the Lois Trimble King Of The Mountain on a testing five kilometre course. Fun runners are welcome.