Stawell mum Naomi Hunter capped an unforgettable year of cross country running by winning the three kilometre Chris Blake Handicap on the North Park Athletic Track last Saturday and then receiving her first ever club award at the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s post-race presentation night.
Returning from injury at the start of the year, uncertain as to whether she could complete just one of the 20 races let alone most of them, the 35-year-old posted her maiden win in the five kilometre Stephen Baird Handicap in May, and then backed up by winning the six kilometre Howden’s Telstra Shop Handicap in June.
Hunter’s rare hat-trick of wins all came as a surprise to her but they culminated her being named the Ian Notting Veteran Female Champion of 2018.
“I was really disheartened when I ruptured my achilles tendon last year and honestly thought that I should just hang up my boots,” she said.
“But I grew in confidence as the season went on, shedding nearly 10 kilograms in weight along the way. I’ve learned that running is something I can do with my whole family; I'm in control of my body and can stop if required, which is something you can't do in team sports.”
Her win in the Blake was well planned.
“I knew that it would be a fast race on the running track and thought it would suit the front marker, so I had Stephen Baird pencilled in for the win.
“But I'd been running longer distances and was as fit as I’ve been so my aim was just to go as hard as I could and see if I could sustain it over the shorter distance.”
That she did in her typically gritty style, finishing the race with seven seconds to spare from Baird with daylight between him and the third-placed Luke Baker.
Backmarker Col Barnett conceded seven minutes start to the winner and finished back in the field but was later named the Ian Notting Open Male Champion for the seventh time and was also the Veteran Male Champion.
Club President David Hunter wrested the prestigious Club Aggregate from Barnett’s grasp, Jess Cass was named Open Female Champion after a tight tussle with Matilda lglesias, 76-year-old Gary Saunders won the Ray Rickard Family Teams Trophy and nine-year-old Olivia Hunter secured her third-straight Robert Freeland Sub-Junior award.