The redoubtable Rhonda Clark performed a miracle far greater than a minor when she blitzed the biggest cross country field of the season to win the inaugural Seppelts Classic over eight kilometres in thick fog at Great Western racecourse on Sunday.
Penalised 3.20 minutes for her three second win over the same distance at Ararat the week before, Rhonda might have crowed “in your boot, handicapper” after scooting over the newly designed course to post a time of 40.21 minutes – a full five minutes faster than she managed at Ararat!
It eclipsed the 42.28 she recorded in 2011 – her fastest since 2008 – by over two minutes, prompting stragglers to recall a famous line from the hit 1989 comedy hit When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what she’s having!” But after all the bewildered head-shaking and scratching was done it was time to reflect on the historic win by the 44-year-old who has long belittled her athletic ability. “I felt no different today than I have racing on any other Sunday,”
Not only did she record rare back to back wins at her 150th start with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club but she was also first home for the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club after being talked into competing for both clubs in the combined race just moments before the start.
Caught short of cash, Rhonda might not have paid the extra $5 she needed to represent the two clubs until reminded by the SAAC President of the impact a “no race” would have on her standings in the Club Aggregate and Teams Trophy at the end of the season.
The unique double meant that Rhonda has now won four of her past seven races which is probably unprecedented in handicap racing, anywhere, anytime.
“What she’s having,” is quality speed work under the tutelage of Bob Freeland (Monday nights at 6pm), regular gym sessions, bike riding and a more scientific approach to her fitness which has clearly paid off.
In the race within a race, Rhonda defeated rookie Sandra Casey and Sven O’Flynn, representing Stawell, and the luckless Chris Barwick and O’Flynn for the Ararat club. The enigmatic Irishman was true to typical poor form again. After finishing distant lasts at his most recent starts at Ararat and Stawell, up he popped with an 8km “blindsider” which stripped almost 20 minutes – yes, 20 minutes – from his previous effort over the distance on June 2.
Great Western’s Dale Hurley used local knowledge to record fastest time of 31.45 which was 1.37 minutes quicker than Sam Gason’s next best, but both finished in about the middle of the field once handicaps were applied.
In the Sub-Junior race over 1600 metres, Jordan Nitzche was too big and solid for the determined chasers Alex Boan and Liam Davey.
Both clubs have a bye this weekend but on July 13 Stawell travels to Troopers Camp, at Roses Gap for the 10km Run for Ray Scott, which includes a challenging climb up the “hill of horrors.” The Ararat club have their first 10km race for the season, the Josh and Sylvia Logan Memorial at Deep Lead.
Fun Runners are welcome and can contact the clubs on 53562493.
By Keith Lofthouse
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