Sheer determination propelled Stawell Amateur Athletic Club runner Ilana Jorgensen up the long difficult climb to the finish when she took out her first win as a senior runner in last Saturdays 5km Stephen Baird Handicap.
Competing in her first season as a senior, the Murtoa teenager got off to a good start in the 26 strong field, with Ivan McDonald, Peter Steggall and Col Barnett also showing good early pace.
At the 3 kilometre point the middle and backmarkers were starting to come together, but the front markers still had a good lead, with new member Lindy Muller having overtaken Gary Saunders and threatening Carol Lehmann.
However, the last kilometre of the race was all uphill, and proved a major factor in determining the final placings. Ilana Jorgensen ran the hill hard, forging to the lead when she overtook Lindy Muller with 300 metres to go, but backmarker Col Barnett was bearing down fast. Jorgensen dug deep to power up the final slope to cross the line first, but Barnett reeled in Muller with 70 metres to go to claim second, with Muller hanging on to third from a fast finishing Peter Steggall.
Fastest race time went to Steve Page with 18 minutes 1sec. Susie Ellis was the quickest female with 22 minutes 26sec.
The juniors ran the same 5 kilometre course, resulting in a great struggle up the final hill between Nat Watson and backmarker Daniel Faravoni.
With 100 metres to go, they were neck and neck, but Watson proved too strong in the final sprint and took out first place. Faravoni was second clocking the fastest junior time of 21 minutes 14sec.
Emma Kelly held out Emily Parnaby in the closing stages to take third place, while Parnaby posted the fastest junior girls time of 24 minutes 30sec.
In the 1 kilometre sub-junior event, Georgia Barnett ran the race of her life to just steal a win from the youngest runner in the field, India Burns, right on the line.
Liam Burns ran well to claim third place, and the fastest sub-junior boys time of 4 minutes 37sec. Elly Barnett was the fastest sub-junior girl in 4 minutes 30sec.