Barry Higgins

Barry Higgins

GARRY HENRY RUNS THE SWAGGY WILSON CHAMPIONSHIP

 

A story for the Junior Harriers

A surprise competitor in the Geoff ‘Swaggy’ Wilson run was former Traralgon resident Garry Henry, who as an eleven year old in the mid-sixties started his running career with the Traralgon Harriers.

Still running for enjoyment thirty years later, in 1996 Garry won the invitation Olympic Centenary Marathon in Athens – celebrating the centenary of the first modern Olympics held in 1896:

Former Traralgon Harrier Garry Henry has won the Olympic Centenary Marathon in Athens, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of 30 000 as he crossed the finish line in the Panatheneam, the original Olympic stadium.  Given the honour of representing Australia in the Marathon, during the re-enactment in Greece this week of the first modern Olympic Games, Henry, in his early forties, ran a time of 2.24:06 in cold rainy weather on Saturday night.

Henry’s fellow Victorian Pat Scammell, in the 1500 metres, and Queenslander Anthony Ryan in the 400 metres sprint won silver medals.  Martin Bryon from New South Wales finished a commendable sixth in the 800-metre event.

The winner of Australia’s first Olympic medals, in the 800 and 1500 metre events at the 1896 Games in Athens, was Edwin Flack, who came from Berwick.  Flack, courageously, also started in the marathon, but after leading for much of the race was forced to withdraw just beyond the 23 mile mark of the 26 mile – now recognised as 44 kilometres – endurance event.

As an eleven year old in the mid-sixties Garry Henry started running with the Traralgon Harriers. Later, as a promising runner in his mid-twenties, trained by then Harriers coach Martin Thompson, Henry competed against Robert de Castella, Chris Wardlaw, Gerard Barrett, Bill Scott and Dave Chettle in the 1980 Olympic marathon selection trial.  All were sub 2:12 marathoners, or were soon to be.  As coach, Pat Clohessy explained in de Castella’s book ‘On Running’, “It was a terribly hard race with five good runners fighting desperately for three Games places.”

Barrett won, with de Castella and Wardlaw pushing Henry into fourth place, and out of Olympic selection.  Also finishing third in the 10 000 metres Olympic trial, Garry learned only two runners would be sent to Moscow.

 

In Moscow, de Castella ran 2.14:31 to finish a commendable tenth in the 1980 Olympic marathon, the best Australian result.

A few months later Henry competed in the 1980 Fukuoka marathon in Japan.  He finished fourth, ahead of the first four Olympic place winners, and the three top American marathoners – who did not go to Moscow – in 2.10:09, the second fastest Australian marathon time ever. Robert de Castella was a further 35 seconds back in eighth place.

Returning from a sports scholarship in America, Garry Henry continued his association with the Harriers until the mid-eighties.  Still running in 1994, he won the ‘B’ division of the prestigious Zatopek 10 000, in a time which would have placed him third in the top section against Australia’s top middle distance runners.”

A training partner and good friend of Steve Moneghetti (see “In The Long Run – Steve Moneghetti”), Garry was staying with Keith and Fay Tomholt.  He left Traralgon to go to Ballarat to visit his grandmother, and also Steve.

Garry is arguably the best Australian marathon runner not to compete in the Olympics.

Barry Higgins

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