Fifth decade of history -2007 to 2017
Information supplied by Ian Twite
The high and lows of running Athletics Victoria (A.V.) for the Traralgon Harriers the last 23 years (The history of A.V. and the Traralgon Harriers in my days of representing the club in this competition).
I started running in 1990 at the age of 35 after I decided to give football away. I found it hard to give footy away because I enjoyed the companionship and the bonding of being part of a team. I had always enjoyed the running part of football and would always look forward to running during the off season to keep myself fit. After the 1990 footy season I decided to stop running to make giving up footy easy. After 3 months of this I started to feel unfit, I hated it. I had never been unfit in my life. I made myself a vow to keep running for the rest of my life and never be unfit again.
I found running a lonely individual sport. I did a few fun runs to try satisfying my competitive spirit but it was never the same as being part of a team in a competitive environment. Early 1994 fate had me arriving in Traralgon. They had a running club and I quickly joined. I then learnt they also competed as a team on Saturday’s over the winter in Cross-Country and Road Races. Sign me up I will give it a go.
In football I had learnt two values:
- Wear your jumper with pride and be proud of the team you represent.
- Always try and get the most out of yourself by competing at the highest level possible.
When I ran my first A.V. run I was so excited. To be able to compete for a team at the highest level available was the environment I had been looking for. Running was so much better than football. In football to compete at the highest level available you must make the team first. In running you just have to turn up and run. A.V. has allowed a mug like me to represent the Traralgon Harriers in over 200 Victorian Championship races and a couple Australian Championship races alongside the likes of Steve Monaghetti and Craig Mottram.
A.V. is not just for the elitist
One of the misconceptions about A.V. is that it is full of self-centred ego driven athletes. It is far from it. It cannot be further from the truth. It takes a special kind of athlete to run A.V. They are generally selfless individuals more dedicated to the needs of the team than their own. Very friendly, encouraging and welcoming. It is an environment that I really enjoy and I will always endeavour to be a part of it.
The early years hit a Road Block
I am not sure of the exact timing but during the mid-nineties there was a push to amalgamate the Traralgon Harriers with Yallourn Newborough. It was a push coming from many of the better runners in the club so we could have a more competitive A.V. team. The motion was defeated and many of the better runners left the club or stop running after. Interest in running A.V. stopped after this. For the next couple of season I found myself driving down to Melbourne with Melissa or a couple of other juniors like Brett Van Der Velden, Craig Edgar and Michael Lancaster. They would do their junior events and I found myself running the open events on my own. I enjoyed the competition but it was lonely not running in a team. I was really jealous of all the other clubs and the large number of runner’s they would have turn up to each event. Also I could not do any of the relays without a team.
Re-Building A.V in the Traralgon Harriers
In the late 1990’s it became my mission to get a senior team back running A.V. so I could do a full season. In those days in A.V. when you club scored the most points in any A.V. race in your division you won a pennant for that race. Each member of the team got a pennant. Our first pennant came when Keith Tomholt, Ian Heafield, Peter Gritxi and I won the Men’s Division 6 at the Bundoora 12km Cross-Country. I will single Peter Gritxi out here because he became the main reason I made a decision later on that changed the course of A.V. for the Traralgon Harriers.
Now Peter was a great person to have run A.V. Reliable, loyal and no matter how many red wines he had the night before he always turned up and gave his best. He was a great companion and always made me laugh whether traveling down with him or sharing a burger with him at Macca’s after.
Amalgamation rears its head again
Not sure of the exact date but the turn of the century sounds good. There was another push to amalgamate. This was bigger than the last push. It was put forward that the Gippsland Region that overseers all the races like the 25km Championship, 10km Gippsland Track Championship etc. would disband. This would pave the way for all the clubs Morwell, Warragul, Yallourn Newborough and Traralgon Harriers to amalgamate and form a Gippsland Athletics club and run A.V. as a regional club. At first I warmed to the idea because like the A.V. runners who pushed the last amalgamation I liked the idea of having a more competitive A.V. team.
Just before the end of the A.V. season and the beginning of a new one where we had to make our decision I was competing in the then Gippsland 10,000m at the Newborough track. It was a mixture of good local runners who would become my team mates if we amalgamated and some Traralgon Harriers.
The Traralgon Harriers in those days were no match and for the other runners and when I finished I shook hands with all the better runners who had beaten me quite easily. After that I stayed around the finish line to cheered and encourage all my Traralgon Harrier team mates who were still running. One was Peter Grixti who still had several laps to go. I observed that the better runners once they had finished were not interested in those who were still running. It occurred to me then that the likes of Peter Grixti would not have place in an amalgamated team. This was not what the Traralgon Harriers were about and I decided that we were better to stay the Traralgon Harriers so runners like Peter Grixti would have a team they could represent. Our club identity and what it stood for was far more important than having a team of good runners.
Pennants and Premierships galore
That season a young runner called John MacKenzie joined our ranks and we won nearly every race we competed in as a team in the Men’s Division 6. To secure the premiership that year we competed in the Coliban Relays for the first time. From memory our team was Neil Griffiths, Allen Timmer-Arends, Keith Tomholt, John MacKenzie and myself. The Coliban relays are a great experience. One of the mysteries about them is you are waiting at the relay change over in the middle of nowhere with over 100 other runners not knowing how your team is going or when your runner is going to turn up. In those days the Men’s Div 3, Men’s Div 4, Men’s Div 5, Men’s Div 6 and the Men’s Div 7 all started together and ran the same course. It was hard to get a gauge on where our team would come but we just had to be the first Div 6 team home.
My Greatest moment as a Traralgon Harrier
If I had to pick my greatest moment as a Traralgon Harrier this would have to be it. I was the last runner in our team waiting for John MacKenzie to changeover with me so I could run the final leg to the finish line. So picture this I am standing there with over 100 other runners waiting for a runner to appear on the horizon down this long straight stretch of road. All of a sudden the word goes out “Runner coming” “Who is it” “Cannot tell” then someone says “I think it is a Traralgon Harrier” All eyes turn around looking for a Traralgon harrier top and they all stop and looked at me. It was a very strange feeling having over a 100 set of eyes staring at you. My next move was even better. As I made my move to the changeover line it was like the parting of the Red Sea as all the runners stepped aside and let me through. It gets even better. As the first team to finish I got to follow a lead car all the way into Bendigo through the town and onto the Bendigo Athletic track to do one lap to the finish line. All the way along I got cheered and clapped and I couldn’t help feeling like I was an Olympic Champion winning a Marathon. Although we were only Division 6 we beat the Geelong Division 3 team in by over two minutes that day.
With Success come more Success and then a decline
After that first premiership running A.V. became fashionable and our numbers grew. It was nothing to have up to 30 to 40 runners at any one event and up 7 teams at many of the relays. Consequently we kept winning premierships and pennants. Despite getting promoted every year we won the Men’s Division 4 and Division 7 in 2001. Then in 2002 we reach our pinnacle as an A.V. club winning the Men’s Division 3, 6 and 7 premierships. After that we got promoted to Men’s Division 2, 4 and 6. This made winning and competing harder and consequently our men’s teams’ began to struggle. Our numbers began to drop off and it got even harder to compete and fill teams. As our men teams began to struggle our women teams got stronger and reached their pinnacle in 2008 when they won the women’s Division 2 premiership and got promoted to the Premier Division 1. The only Country Club to have a team in the women’s Premier Division 1. Things got a lot harder for our women but before they began to decline Kathryn (Ewels) Preston had some individual success winning the Ballarat 15km Road Race twice and the Individual Open Women’s’ Championship in 2010.
The Lows of A.V. with the Traralgon Harriers
The low for me has not been so much the lack of success lately but the lack of numbers competing. I know it is a big commitment but the rewards for me far outweigh the inconvenience of travelling and competing. I actually enjoy the travelling because I know what I am in for when I get there. Competing at the highest level where the best runners and coaches our found has certainly taught me so much about running. In fact it is the only reason why at 60 I can still enjoy running injury free and find so much enjoyment out of running. It is because of my time spent running A.V. I have learnt so much about running. This is not to mention the life time friends I have made and the countless memoires of running with so many different harrier teams over the years. All those memories are irreplaceable.
My Biggest Low of running A.V. as a Traralgon Harrier
My biggest low came at the 2015 Victorian Country Championship. This was when I realised that nobody at the Traralgon Harriers these days really cares if we have a team competing at A.V. events but me. I thought seriously then about leaving the Traralgon Harriers and finding a more A.V. friendly club. I thought about it for a while and I then realised as a runner I have out lived my generation of runners. I realise that I am now dealing with a different generation of runners who needs, commitments and ideals are far different than mine. I am the link to what was a glorious past in the Traralgon Harriers history and I may be its only link to the future of A.V. and the Harriers. If I leave then that link will go.
Whatever happens in the future one thing is for sure. I will still run A.V. until I cannot run it anymore. I know I will always be welcome at A.V. regardless of how slow I get. At A.V. I am known as Twitey the Traralgon Harrier and that is the most important thing to me.