BENDIGO Bats made a brilliant start to Athletics Victoria's cross-country series in Saturday's team relays at Jells Park in Wheelers Hill.
The Bats marked a long-awaited and hard-fought return to men's premier division by scoring an eight second win from Western Athletics.
Athletes in open class ran 6km, juniors ran a 3km distance.
Bendigo's run to glory in premier was led off by Nathan Stoate, 18.27, and followed by captain Brady Threlfall, 18.26; Matt Buckell, 19.17; Brian McGinley, 19.58; Archie Reid, 18.41; and Andy Buchanan, 17.41.
The Bats won in 1 hour 52.30 minutes from Western, 1:52.38; Box Hill, 1:52.42; and St Stephens, 1:52.51.
Next in men's premier division were Melbourne Uni., Glenhuntly, APS United, Collingwood, Ballarat Region, and Doncaster.
Fastest on the day were Olympic representatives, Stewart McSweyn from St Stephens in 17.30, and Jack Rayner in 17.40 for Western.
A dozen teams represented Bendigo across various age groups and distances.
Bendigo's tally was six wins, two runner-up, two sixth placings, a ninth, and 12th.
The Bats' line-up of Jamie Cook, 19.41; Luke Millard, 23.08; Matthew Heislers, 21.24; Jordan Buckell, 21.09; and Glenn McMillan, 19.59, clocked an overall time of 1:45.21 across their 6km legs to win men's division four.
The under-18 boys' team of Harrison Boyd, 9.13; Jayden Padgham, 9.37, and Logan Tickell, 9.30, was first in 28.20 from Doncaster, 29.08, and Ballarat, 29.14.
Avery McDermid, 10.29; Mason Woodward, 10.40; and Max Rowe, 10.31, was sixth in the under-18 boys' class in 31.40.
In women's division four, Ingrid Woodward, Alice Wilkinson and Rebecca Wilkinson achieved a time of 1:13.29 to win a closely-fought race with Mornington.
It was a one-two result for Bendigo in men's division seven as Jake Delaney, Matthew Schepisi, Chris Armstrong and Rory Flanagan won in 1:31.15, as Ben Stolz, David Lonsdale, Aaron Norton and Darren Hartland ran 1:40.54 to be runner-up.
The 40-plus men of Nick McDermott, Mike Bieleny and Stephen Van Rees were first in 1:07.04.
The under-20 women's team of Phoebe Lonsdale, Taryn Furletti and Tullie Rowe ran 35.08 to be runner-up to Geelong, 32.53.
Chelsea Tickell, Ebony Woodward and Tully Lang teamed up in the under-18 girls relay to be ninth in 39.21.
The women's 50-plus team of Anne Buckley, Helen Anderson and Debby Kirne clocked 1:31.51 to be sixth.
Antony Langdon, Jim Russell and David Heislers clocked 1:26.02 to be 12th in the men's 50-plus class.
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