Hunter bags rare rookie hat-trick | Cross Country

WIN: Naomi Hunter powers to the finish line.

WIN: Naomi Hunter powers to the finish line.

It’s taken four years, including 12 months recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and a lot of self-doubt for Naomi Hunter to finally achieve her maiden cross country win last Saturday.

Hunter’s gutsy effort in the five kilometre Stephen Baird Handicap completed an unprecedented hat-trick of wins for Stawell Amateur Athletic club rookies in the past three weeks.

“Oh my God, this can’t be happening,” Hunter said within sight of the finish after withstanding a late challenge from runner-up, Luke Baker, who finished just eight seconds in arrears.

Naomi’s husband, David, also on the comeback trail after injury, was third.

Hunter, who has raced just 16 times, failing to finish twice from a possible 44 races since 2015, missed the entire 2017 season after a surgical procedure to repair her Achilles. She is a monument to perseverance having previously retired from team sports after a knee and ankle reconstructions.

“I have never thought about winning before and can’t believe that I have. I only ever think about making it to the finish line.”

In the sub-junior one kilometre event, Colten Kenny jumped for joy when announced as the winner on handicap from determined chasers Olivia Hunter and Kayla Membrey.

The club combines with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club this Saturday for the eight kilometre Lindsay Kent Memorial Handicap.