A ten second lapse in concentration may have cost 2009 club champion Nathaniel Warren outright back to back honours in the championship titles, which were finalized in the Ironbarks last Saturday.
Nathan had a handy points margin over his only challenger, David McAllister, as they lined up for the last race that counted, the five kilometres Sports Power Handicap, that was miraculously run in sunshine after torrential rain for more than 24 hours.
The title holder worked hard to open up what might have been a decisive 20 metres gap over his rival with two kilometres to go, but Nathan failed to notice the frantic urgings of course marshal Ray Rickard, made a wrong turn and handed that 20 metres lead to David.
“It was my own stupid fault,” a crestfallen Nathan lamented. “Psychologically, when you make a mistake like that, you’re done for. David skipped away, and mentally I was shot, so there was no coming back. But that’s racing at any level. If you don’t stay on the course you usually don’t win.”
Nathan’s error probably cost him the solitary point which would have been enough to secure the title, but the 34 point-tie was a fitting result, given that the stoush between the club’s elite runners was mostly neck and neck in a highly competitive season.
As the two speedsters wrestled and fought for the lead, first season runner Kim Baker quietly went about the business of sticking to her race plan and broke through for her first success on handicap. The Stawell teenager, the grand-daughter of former club president William Baker, is only just learning how to race and had made a conscious decision during the week to “go out hard”.
“I’ve been inclined to ease myself into things, but that hasn’t worked out, so I had to get out of my comfort zone and push myself early to see if it made a difference.” she said. “I’ve had some trouble with tendonitis in both ankles, but I felt good out there today, and I kept Rhonda Clark and Keith Lofthouse, a couple of runners that normally get well away from me, in my sights, so I knew I had a winning chance.”
Cross country running often serves up some unexpected obstacles, especially after rainfall, but never before had runners been forced to hurdle a fortunate tortoise that occupied the middle of a muddy track, looking every inch like just another rock.
Tobias Blair scored a belated victory in the junior division of the Sportspower Handicap, but didn’t have the points to overhaul Raine Mackley, Liam Scott and Luca Atherton who were locked in a dramatic three-way tie for the title of Junior Champions.
By Keith Lofthouse