It was another morning typical of Canberra's long drought - cloudless skies, the promise of warmth to come - a great day for a swim, or a run.
With 950 entrants, it was one of the bigger fields in Women’s and Girls’ history. One dollar from each entry would be donated to ACT Breast Cancer Research.
Who were the favourites for outright victory? Last year’s winner Elaine Cooper would be hard to beat. The previous week she had run an Australian record of 7:15.8 to win the 2000m steeplechase at the ACT Veterans Championships. Triathletes Robyn Sewell and Joy Terry were contenders. SCT hopes were with Erin Sutcliffe who had just won the ACTCCC Hobson Summer Series. Erin’s form had been improving week by week - did she realise she had a chance of winning?
At 9am the gun sounded and the stampede to the Commonwealth Avenue bridge began. My job as lead cyclist would give me a good view of the unfolding race.
Running up the hill and through the Regatta Point car park the front pack was forming. Joy Terry was in the lead and pushing the pace. In close company behind Joy were Suzy Walsham, Robyn Sewell, Erin Sutcliffe and Melanie Collins. No Elaine Cooper - illness prior to the race had made her a non-starter. Sitting quietly at the back of the pack, a familiar face - Canadian visitor Angela Chalmers! The Olympic bronze medalist and three-times Commonwealth Games champion would make the race come to life. My immediate thoughts were “Who would come second? Would Erin stick to the pre-race plan of staying with the leaders?”
The first uphill kilmetre was covered in a moderate 3 minutes and 35 seconds. The pace increased on the downhill run past Stage 88 through Commonwealth Park. Joy Terry was no longer leading. It was junior prodigy Suzy Walsham with, surprise, Angela Chalmers on her shoulder. Joy, Robin Sewell and 14-year-old Erin Sutcliffe were hanging on. Melanie Collins the 800 and 1500 metre specialist had dropped back. Shortly after, Robyn decided the pace was too hot and let go from the leading foursome.
Suzy and Angela applied a bit more pressure just after 2 kilometres which saw Joy, then Erin lose touch. The two front runners were looking relaxed and comfortable as they passed the Carillon and headed for the turn-around. Not so Joy Terry who trailed by 50 metres and looked in danger of being caught by a rejuvenated Erin. Robyn Sewell was running a lonely 5th and no longer in contention.
Approaching the 4k mark any doubts spectators held about the eventual winner were cast to the depths of Lake Burley Griffin. Angela Chalmers decided to “go” and put down one very fast kilometre which left Suzy wondering where the Canadian had gone. Joy was running solo in third place and no longer looked in danger from Erin Sutcliffe. A few tell-tale glances over the shoulder from Erin were sure sign of her fatigue and worry about Robyn’s closing presence.
Running past the 5 kilometre mark at Regatta Point, the only danger to certain Canadian victory would be a collision with an errant walker or cyclist. There was a small group of blissfully unaware tourists on the path near the water jet, but Angela weaved her way through and ran on to an untroubled victory - announced with usual enthusiasm by Brian Lenton. The winning time of 21:03 doesn’t do justice to the way Angela dominated the race. I’m sure she could have threatened Susan Hobson's 20:05 race record had she been so inclined.
It was a great comeback for Suzy Walsham who was very impressive in finishing just 23 seconds behind the Olympic medalist. Joy Terry was a further 20 seconds behind in third place and did well considering her limited running training these days. Robyn Sewell’s decision to back off early paid off as she caught a tired looking Erin Sutcliffe in the last kilometre to take fourth place. Although the distance was over her speciality, Melanie Collins didn’t look stressed in fifth place ahead of Australian orienteering rep Nicki Taws. A trio of promising local juniors filled out the top ten - Jennifer Beer, Erin Lenon and Amy Rugendyke.
SCTAC winners in teams' categories were The Hosking Sisters and the Mother and Daughter Consise Couple of Karen Daniels and Erin Sutcliffe.
In summary, another great day for women’s and girls’ running. Well done to race director Fiona Jorgensen (previous director Debbi Hoare had commitments with the Forster Ironman) and her team of volunteers. Special mention to Theresa and Jamie’s onsite provision of full computer results. See you all next year for the 1999 Women’s and Girls’ !