Visiting Chinese University student Wen Zhai led from start to finish to score a gutsy win in last Saturday’s Stawell Amateur Athletic Club 5km Stephen Baird handicap.
Running in only her fifth race with the club, Wen has shown considerable determination and great improvement, especially since she had not run further than 800 metres in China.
Wen was introduced to cross country only recently by a Stawell Secondary College teacher, where Wen is stationed as part of her exchange progam. Wen took to running like a duck to water, loving it from the start.
Running off the front mark, Wen led out the 24 strong senior field over the difficult, hilly course. Several minutes behind, Carolyn Lehmann was also performing well, with mid field runners Emma Kelly, Keith Lofthouse and Alexa Duke also showing good form.
With a very long and difficult hill up to the finish, Wen had to call on all her courage to keep herself going, as the field was gaining ground by the minute.
Back markers Owen Roper and Kieran Ryan were closing fast, but it turned out to be a front markers day, with Wen hanging on for a great win, ahead of Carolyn Lehmann second, and Emma Kelly third.
Kieran Ryan ran the fastest time of 18 minutes 10 seconds, with Alexa Duke the fastest female in 25 minutes 40 seconds.
The juniors also tackled the same 5km course, with back marker Liam Scott taking the final hill in his stride to claim victory over Emily Parnaby, with Bianca Roberston third.
Scott ran the fastest junior time of 24 minutes 34 seconds. Parnaby was the fastest junior girl in 26 minutes 29 seconds.
Sub-junior Tobias Blair put in a great run to take out the 1km handicap, overtaking a gallant India Burns not far from the line. Liam Burns was third.
Blair also posted the fastest sub-junior time of 4 minutes 16 seconds. Aleesha Robertson was the best sub-junior girl in 4 minutes 26 seconds.
Wen Zhai is also currently running an earth quake appeal for the homeless children in China, for which the club was pleased to donate the days race entry fees.