Cross Country Returns!

588 days. That’s how long it had been since Old Xaverian athletes had pulled on the red & black in an APSOC competitive race. 588 days since we took a clean sweep in winning the Mens’ Division 1, Mens’ Division 2, and Womens’ premierships at the 2019 Cooke-McClelland. And boy, was it great to be back.

As always, OXAC were by far the most represented club. We are lucky to have such a fantastic culture and camaraderie around our club that attracts old boys, friends, partners, children, and other connections alike. It especially great to see all of the parents, siblings and children who train and compete together – OXAC is well and truly the family club! We are grateful for everyone who pulls on the red & black and look forward to continuing to see big crowds for the rest of the season!

To the running. The first race back saw a new course (again) at the Jamieson, new timing bands, and lots of new faces. As predicted, in the Mens’, Scotch were always going to be the team to beat, with their young brigade taking a clean sweep of the podium. Nonetheless, our open runners took the competition right up to them, with Jase Paisley (6th) running well coming back from an injury to be the first OX runner, followed by Ben Haseler (7th), Aidan Jackson (8th), Pete Chappell (10th), Jason Heard (11th), and Aidan Biggar (12th), all in close succession. It was good to see all of these runners work well together, pushing each other on, in great signs for the future of the club. Those 6 constituted our first open team, OX1, who finished 2nd overall, 10 points behind Scotch (44-54).

Our next 6 runners made up our OX2 team, who remarkably, finished 3rd overall, a clear sign of our massive depth which will stand us in good stead during the season. This team was made of up first-time runner Josh Macken (14th), stalwart Brad Johnson (17th), returning champ Daniel Zinni (18th), Mr Consistent Jules Fleurus (22nd), young gun Cam Marshall (23rd), and Anthony Meek (26th), who made a remarkable return to competitive racing following back surgery a mere 4 months ago. The next four Old Xavs across the line were all first-time runners – Courtney Powell (29th), old boys Miles Bergin (33rd) and Dave Walker (35th), and Pablo Campillos (39th). What a great debut from these athletes – we look forward to seeing much more of them during the season! OXAC old hands Steve McDonald (40th) and Geoff Stebbins (45th) rounded out our OX3 team.

Strong results in Division 2 last season meant that OX4 were our top-ranked team in Division 2 in 2021. Any fears of this team being out of their depth were quickly put to rest by a comfortable win by a team consisting of long-serving Marc Douez (46th) and Jeremy Spradbery (63rd), young superstar Charlotte Hoskins (48th and the fastest of the W23s), returning gun Belle Turner (58th), and finally a great sprint finish between Meek the Senior (Bob Meek, 65th) and our summer athletics captain (Monica Clarke, 66th) in what must have been one of her longest runs for a while.

The OX teams did not stop there, either. OX5 consisted of Jacqui Nixon (67th), Pierre Guillon (69th), first-time runner Nik Matthews (72nd), Georgia Bunker (82nd), Julie Pearsons (85th, in her first race back since having a baby – congrats Julie!) and Jonah Gannon (89th). Sarah Costi (90th), Lucy Permezel (95th), Fleur Shaw-Jones (101st), Montana Whiteley (108th), and organisers-extraordinaire Richard Dickmann (99th) and Margaret Fitzgerald (107th and the fastest in W60s) comprised our 6th OX team across the line.

Our unstoppable Women’s athletes, whose results count in both divisions, romped home in their bid to defend their 2019 premiership, their 11th of the last 12. The aforementioned Courtney, Charlotte, Bella, and Mon made up our first team, whilst Jacqui, Georgia, Julie and Sarah made up our OX2 Women’s team. The gauntlet has well and truly been laid down in the women’s competition – what a great result!

OX7 was led by our President Chris Worsnop (114th), followed closely by Alex Johnson (115th), Dean Whiteley (116th), Soph Hong-Dunnett (121st), Melissa Stebbins (127th) and Anthony Walsh (139th). Patricia Goncalves also ran (149th) to make it 7 first-time OX athletes – well done all and may you have a great season ahead! This also makes a fantastic 43 total Old Xaverian runners for the day – almost 1/3 of the field!

Often the highlight for many runners (with this author no exception), the communal afternoon tea was noticeably missing after the race due to ongoing COVID restrictions. We held our own tea across the road from Scotch, where great minds thought alike and 3 separate athletes brought Tim Tams, ensuring no post-race sugar dips occurred. Let’s hope the afternoon tea makes a return during the season!

The next APSOC race is next week, Saturday 17th April, the Hare & Hounds at Caulfield Grammar, the first race at Wheelers Hill. Following that, the next premiership event will be the much-anticipated and highly attended Dyson Relays at the Tan, on Saturday May 8, where 6 runners make up a fast-paced relay team. Keep these events and the remainder of the races, available on the APSOC website, in your diaries!

In closing, the following athletes are officially awarded Bob’s Excitement PointsTM (BEP), with apologies to BEP creator, Bob Meek:

  • 8: to our 7 new OX athletes: Josh Macken, Courtney Powell, Miles Bergin, Dave Walker, Pablo Campillos, Nik Matthews, and Patricia Goncalves. Welcome to the club!
  • 7: to Jonah Gannon, for not only running a 5km PB, but coming 2nd overall in the handicap. Well done, Jonah!
  • 5: to Julie Pearsons and Bob Meek, for making the 2021 Jamieson their 66th APSOC race since 2013 (when records began) – a Club record!
  • 3: to Margaret Fitzgerald, for organising all of the timing bands, collecting everyone’s bags, and generally being everyone’s mum on the day. What would we do without you, Margaret?
  • 2: to Bob Meek again, this time for letting me plagiarise the BEP system. 
  • 1: for everyone! All 43 of our athletes pulled on the red & black with pride, and it was great to see such a big group out there. Long may that continue.

Aidan Jackson

OXAC Men’s Captain