MATTHEW Clarke has put the finishing touches on a strong Victorian athletics season by winning the 2018 Bendigo Bank Dragon Mile on Sunday.
Clarke, from Old Xaverians Athletics Clubs, outlasted a crack field to claim first place in the traditional Easter street footrace.
His win denied star Bendigo athlete Andy Buchanan a third victory in the race.
Buchanan, who won the event in 2015 and 2016 and was last week named Bendigo region athlete of the year, had to be content with second place, with Mitchell Thompson in third.
Last year’s winner Archie Wallis was fourth.
Clarke, who was contesting the Dragon Mile for the first time, revealed it was Buchanan, who had convinced him to run in the event.
“It was on my potential race calendar and I was talking to Andy and he said ‘it’s magnificent race, there’s thousands of people watching, it will be one of the biggest races you ever race in’,” he said.
“I thought it sounded awesome and had to be a part of it.
“I’ve had a pretty good season, but it was always going to be tough to beat Andy, he’s a great runner.
“I was happy to get the win.
“The crowd was huge – it went all the way up the (View Street) hill, coming back down was unreal.”
Clark, who splits time between university studies and working as a cook in a restaurant, said his focus would now turn to the forthcoming cross-country season, ahead of a trip overseas, where he will be aiding a vision-impaired athlete.
Meanwhile, Teleah Hayes continued her amazing run of success in the Dragon Mile by winning the open women’s section of the race.
The Elmore-based track star scored her third consecutive win at open level and has at least nine Dragon Mile titles in total following a string of previous age division wins.
Hayes, who runs for the South Bendigo club and won in a time of 4:57.68, said it would be difficult to ponder an Easter long-weekend without running in the race.
“It’s a great race – it’s good having all of Bendigo and the surrounding communities out there cheering for everyone, it’s a great atmosphere,” she said.
“I can hear people yelling out ‘go Hayesy’, it’s great everyone is so supportive of all the runners.
“It helps in getting up the hill; it’s a bit tough.”
Hayes said she was pleased with how her season had panned out, including getting to compete at the Commonwealth Games trials at Carrara Stadium.
“I came away with a personal best from that, so that was a great way to end the season,” she said.
Equally impressive was Teleah’s younger sister Yazmin, who won the girls year 9-10 Dragon Mile and was third overall in the section behind top male pair Wil McCaig and Ben Ludbrooke.
Her win capped a big few weeks for the 15-year-old, who captured the state 3000m championship and finished fifth in the nationals.
“This is a great road race; I like how there’s a hill in there, it’s a real challenge,” she said.
“It’s amazing how many people come out and watch too; you don’t get this anywhere else.
“I’ll be back here next year.”
Dragon Mile co-ordinator Geoff Jordan said he never ceased to be amazed by the support the event received.
“It’s a fantastic event, especially for the schools – and not just in Bendigo, but all across Victoria,” he said.
“There is over 40 primary schools represented from places like Torquay, Melbourne, Kyneton, Echuca – we excited are by what this does for the community feel at Easter.
“And we have some really quality runners in the men’s open race, which will make for a great race.”
Other race winners included Bendigo speedster Wil McCaig in the secondary boys years 9-10 and Rowville visitor Chloe Johnston, who won the girls’ Mini Mile.
The nine-year-old’s win evoked plenty of memories for her mother Christine, who used to run in the race as a child.
Dragon Mile (open men’s): Matthew Clarke 1; Andy Buchanan 2; Mitchell Thompson 3; Archie Wallis 4; Joe Sexton 5.
Dragon Mile (open women’s): Teleah Hayes 1; Brooke Williams 2; Courtney Parker 3; Monica Clarke 4; Skye Fiscalini 5.
Dragon Mile (men’s years 11-12): Archie Reid 1; Ben Powell 2; Declan Osborne 3.
Dragon Mile (girls year 11-12): Matilda Moore 1; Gabrielle Rusbridge 2.
Dragon Mile (men’s 40-plus): Craig Feureherdt 1 Russ Jenkins 2; Cameron Carter 3.
Dragon Mile (women’s 40-plus): Melissa Douglas 1; Erika Bedyn 2; Kathryn Heagney 3.
Secondary school (boys year 9-10): Wil McCaig 1; Ben Ludbrooke 2; Rueben White 3.
Secondary school (girls year 9-10): Yazmin Hayes 1; Tullie Rowe 2; Audrey Savage 3
Senior secondary (boys years 7-8): Jack Diamond 1; Floyd Cartner 2; Toby McCaig 3.
Senior secondary (girls years 7-8): Charlotte Murphy 1; Natasha Dean 2; Jasmine Crothers 3.
Primary school (boys grades 5-6): Logan Tickell 1; Mason Woodward 2; Jacob Sprunt 3.
Primary school (girls grades 5-6): Chelsea Whittle 1; Lucia Painter 2; Megan Wilson 3.
Mini Mile (boys grade four and under): Miller Armstrong 1; Jordan Matthews 2; Charlie Bombardieri.
Mini Mile (girls grade four and under): Chloe Johnston 1; Zoe Dean 2; Alana Fletcher 3.