CASEY Crapper capped a successful return to the athletics track when she won the Hilson Builders-backed Bendigo Cup (3200m) for athletes on Tuesday night.
In her first hit-out at the La Trobe University Bendigo athletics track since 2015, Crapper put in a great run to win the eight lap showdown against a field of 51.
Athletes smashed the previous record entry mark of 26 for a Bendigo Cup run just hours after the Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Crapper started from the two-minute mark and surged to the race lead as the bell sounded for the final lap.
Poppy Wainwright was first to race off a zero handicap and ran brilliantly to lead for most of the way.
On the last lap it was Crapper being hotly pursued by the Wainwright sisters, Poppy and April, as Logan Tickell (6.40) and Stephen Van Rees (7) lifted their tempo dramatically.
But it was Crapper who reigned supreme in a time of 15 minutes.
"I have not raced on the track since the 2015 country championships at Geelong," Crapper said.
"I was extremely nervous going into this race. There was not only my own expectation of racing well, but would I finish."
Chronic fatigue and a slightly enlarged heart forced some major changes to Crapper's lifestyle and athletics pursuits four years ago.
"I had been competing since I was five or six years old. After 18 years of racing, I couldn't."
Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates and meditation have all played key roles in Crapper's return to athletics.
A key player in Crapper's decision to run in the Bendigo Cup was Ebony Whiley.
"We met through athletics and have been great mates for a long time," Crapper said.
"We had been talking for a while about running at the track again, so it was a case of just do it," she said of the decision by both to run in Tuesday's 11th edition of the classic.
Athletes from a wide range of ages and abilities raced for Cup glory.
"On the last lap there was a lot of calling of go Poppy from the crowd, so I knew I could not ease up and be passed near the line," Crapper said.
First five across the line were Casey Crapper, April Wainwright, Poppy Wainwright, Logan Tickell and Stephen Van Rees.
Fastest time honours in this year's Bendigo Cup went to University clubmates Stephen Van Rees and Tullie Rowe.
The 3200m distance of the Bendigo Cup was a massive drop from the 42.2km for a marathon that Crapper has now contested four times.
Crapper raced in this year's Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney marathons, and is aiming to do more.
A highlight was a personal best of 4:14.41, which beat her previous mark by four minutes, in the Sydney Marathon in September.
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