Saunders steps up to take out Stawell memorial run
Gary Saunders, who can lay claim to being the oldest ‘professional’ cross-country runner in Victoria, stunned chasers by winning the eight-kilometre Lindsay Kent Memorial Handicap at Stawell on Sunday.
The race was one of the few races on the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club calendar to have eluded him before this year.
The 77-year-old with the long, flowing grey beard, put a lie to pre-race chatter that Jack Trounson had the race ‘in the bag’ by chugging to the timekeepers with 50 seconds to spare from the 651-run veteran, with Sandra Barwick a battling third.
“I had a real tussle with Sandra for the first couple of kilometres and that helped me to make good time,” Saunders said.
“I really like a hilly course because I see that as a challenge.
“I run hills well because I train on Stawell’s Big Hill and can actually make up ground on hills.
“Besides that I do gym and 100-metre sprints at Central Park.”
Stawell Amateur Athletic Club joined the Ararat Club for the race within a race, with both clubs presenting sashes to their winners.
At the other end of the age scale, rookie Kate Field broke through at only her third official run with the Stawell club, edging out fellow rookie Michelle Dunn who was unlucky not to win the week before after mistaking the course.
Saunders, who runs with both was third. “This is a real surprise to me,” Field said. “I never thought this would happen so early. I’ve always liked long-distance running and fun runs, but I wanted something more, and the club has been so welcoming.”
The Stawell-based myotherapist said she is ‘loving the challenge of competition’ and now has a half-marathon in her sights.
In the amateur’s one-kilometre sub-juniors race, Sienna Santuccione held on grimly for a narrow win over consistent trier Olivia Hunter, with Nate Lyons a close third.
Both clubs revert to five kilometres for their respective races this weekend.
The amateurs celebrate the Stan and Karen Watson Handicap at Stawell, while the Ararat club heads to Dunneworthy Common for the Ararat Handicap.
Fun runners are welcome and details are on the club websites. clubs,
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Sub juniors run for fun at Stawell at the weekend.