Veteran runner Julie Hertz credited the antics of Bonny the pet calf for the first of her two wins with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club in 2017 but in Bonny's place Willywoo, the pet pig, has trotted forth as the driving force behind her second win in 2019.
Bonny used to race along the fenceline at Hertz's Benellen property urging her mistress to do the same at the end of her training runs and hence Hertz ran the best times of her career during that year.
Unfortunately, calf turned cow on the hand that fed her and whether it was playfulness or meanness, Bonny lifted Hertz off her feet and pinned her aggressively against a fence.
"I really felt threatened that day and couldn't trust what was going on in her head so I had to let her go."
Wilbur Woo, or Willywoo for short, is the replacement. Busy managing the property, teaching part time, and performing her duties as club secretary Hertz has little time for training and depends on the pig affording her some level of fitness.
"He loves to chase me and have me chase him, and he manages to wear me out, probably because I'm not doing enough training," Hertz said.
"But he certainly keeps me active and hopefully he won't turn on me like Bonny did. So far he's been a good boy and fun to have around so I can't think that he'll ever wind up on anyone's table!"
Hertz's surprising win in the five kilometre Clem Hall Memorial at Stawell, of course, wasn't all down to the pig.
"Because I'm very often the first to start in a handicap race I usually spend a lot of time running by myself and it's hard to get motivated sometimes. But today we had a massed start and I was able to keep Sue (Blizzard) and Shev (Healy) in my sights. It really helps when you have someone to chase," she said.
With the "lure" ahead, Hertz ran steadily and once handicaps were applied the winner emerged with a 0.27 minute advantage over Healy who has one last chance to win in the season finale, the five kilometre President's Handicap at Dunneworthy Common (Ararat) this Sunday.
Artz has maiden win
Kiri Artz discovered her niche in competitive sport when she turned to running and broke through for her maiden win in the three kilometre Chris Blake Handicap at Stawell last Saturday.
Artz had struggled to find interest in any kind of sport until she placed second in a Stawell Secondary College cross country and realised she might have potential. She has since finished a creditable twenty-first in the cross country regionals.
Her timely win came in the final race of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season on the North Park Athletic Track, the one race that can't be described as cross country, but one over a manageable distance that befitted the winner's inexperience.
"I train with a group at Central Park on Monday nights and my trainer tells me that I go out too hard and should relax into a race so that I am strong at the finish," the fifteen-year-old rookie said.
She was again drawn into an early speed battle with faster runners and was soon in oxygen debt. But the youngster persevered and with the handicaps working in her favour she held on grimly to defeat the nearest chasers, Rebecca Hurley and Naomi Hunter, by a tidy margin.
This was the third all-girl trifecta in the club's twenty-one race season during which males won eleven races and the females ten.
Many of the teenager's female club mates aspire to half or full marathons and endurance events but Artz is content for the moment to focus on shorter races.
"I'm inclined to go flat out all the time which I know I have to watch out for, so for a while I'll have to listen and learn."
In the one kilometre dash for the Sub-Juniors, Nash Santuccione was the day's second rookie to win for the first time, earning bragging rights over brother Kade who was next to finish ahead of Charlie Dunn.