BENDIGO athlete Andy Buchanan was less than nine seconds from capturing an historic hat-trick of Australian 10km cross-country titles in Saturday's race at Kembla Grange.
The 28-year-old star from Bendigo University Athletics Club returned to the purpose-built course where he became national XC champion two years ago.
This time he was up against Victorian team-mate and dual Olympian, David McNeill.
At the end of a gruelling showdown it was McNeill who charged to victory in a time of 30.21 minutes as Buchanan fought on to be runner-up in 30.29.
The teams race was won by Victoria from South Australia and NSW.
Bendigo Region also had rising stars Archie Reid and Logan Tickell compete at Kembla Grange.
Reid ran the 8km in 27.05 to be 19th in the under-20 event.
His clubmate from South Bendigo AC, Tickell marked his first nationals by being 30th in the under-14 3km in 10.20 minutes.
Although disappointed not to achieve a title three-peat, Buchanan said he was "really pleased" with his performance.
"Being runner-up to a dual Olympian and gun athlete in David McNeill is something I am proud to have achieved," Buchanan said.
"The course at Kembla Grange is extremely tough and the temperature (24 degrees) was something not a lot in the field were expecting."
Athletes raced a 2km loop and then two laps of a 4km loop.
"Brad Milosevic from New South Wales made a big attack about four kilometres into the race. There was a downhill run and he put in a big burst to gain a break on the field,'' he said.
The surge by Milosevic led to the main pack being broken up.
Buchanan joined forces with McNeill, Goddard and Davies to catch the race leader by the 7 1/2 km mark.
It was then that McNeill, a dual national 10,000m champion on the track who ran the 5000m at the 2012 London Olympics and 10,000m at the 2016 Rio Olympics began to make his presence felt.
"David started upping the tempo and in a short time he was away," Buchanan said.
"It's such a mental game, as well as physical. There is the battle with the person you are running with, but also about deciding when to chase."
Although he made a bold bid, Buchanan could not reel in McNeill.
Buchanan's long-term goals is the 2020 national 10km XC champs and qualification for the 2021 World 10km Cross Country Championships in Bathurst.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.