Whiskered warrior Gary Saunders spoiled the birthday party for Kayleen Urquhart when he staged a massive form reversal to win the Hunter Gardens and Landscaping Handicap at Concongella last Saturday.
Having finished near the tale of the field (fifteenth and twelfth) at his previous two starts, Saunders, at seventy-five the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s oldest runner, would have been at cricket score odds to win the five-and-a-half kilometre event.
But it was too easily forgotten that Saunders had, in fact, won the penultimate race of the 2017 cross country season just five starts before.
Under revised handicap conditions, everyone had to give Saunders a start, but in typical fashion the veteran began strongly, set up a sizeable lead out of sight of the backmarkers and was never headed.
“The course was just right for me, a bit of downhill at the start and nothing too steep and I just ran thinking the next runner is right on my heels,” Saunders said.
“That always works best for me. I never look behind because if someone is close enough they’ll usually run me down.”
On the advice of master coach, Keith Haymes, Saunders had a vigorous warm-up and no one ever got close.
Saunders, who is focusing less on gym work and more on running this season, runs like a bulldog when he gets a sniff of victory. On greeting the timekeepers with a typically pugnacious sprint, he had over a minute of daylight to spare from a party-pooped Urquhart, with Sharon Howden next best.
In the Sub Junior race of 1000 metres, the club’s most consistent youngster Olivia Hunter, was too nippy for chasers Johnno Baker and Jack Urqhuart.
The club returns to Stawell on Saturday for the five kilometre Stan and Karen Watson Handicap. Fun runners are welcome and should meet at the North Park clubrooms from 9.30am for a 10am start.