IT was almost a balmy afternoon in West Dapto last Saturday when the Nowra Athletics Club competed on the home grass of the Kembla Joggers club in the second leg of the McCaffrey Challenge.
A shield named in honour of Frank McCaffrey who was instrumental in founding the Nowra club in 1960 has been up for competition these last five years.
Nowra and Kembla Joggers are two of the biggest and strongest clubs in country NSW.
While it was cool in the Shoalhaven and raining in Sydney, the sun was strong on the fast, firm but deceptively undulating course at West Dapto.
A point score system is in place to match the two clubs against each other in the five distances.
Everyone counts as the better your finish position then the better the club does.
The first race was over one kilometre and Nowra had nine starters but Kembla Joggers took most of the top positions.
Nowra’s youngest runners are in this category and it is pleasing just to see them fill their lungs and have a run.
Many have brothers, sisters and parents in the longer races and they are the future.
The two kilometre race showcased the fine form of Shenay Edwards as she wore the club colours to first place by a stride.
Alec Dobson and Jake Babian came through to finish in the top 10.
The three kilometres saw the consistent Jesse Buckham the first runner for Nowra in a good 11.20, which garnered him fifth place in a competitive race.
There was the usual strong effort from the reliable Clare Dobson to be three places behind and Kieren Harrison was the third Nowra runner home.
The four and eight kilometre race were where the real contest between our two clubs occurs as this hosts the fastest runners and largest numbers.
Jae Edwards has been in great form for the whole season and won decisively in 12.49 for the four kilometres.
Yet another of the fleet-footed Dobsons, Hugh, came in as second runner for Nowra.
The strong senior Paul Davidson is slowly getting back to form and he, along with the talented junior and long distance visitor Clayton Gibb, were a few strides apart to figure in the top 10.
Nowra had good numbers in this distance but they could not get enough of them through to the front to put pressure on KJS.
The eight kilometre was the most contested race all day.
Arron Speissberger-Parker also has been running in top form this year and Saturday was no different as he took a decisive victory in the two lap run with a quality time of 27.02.
Mitchell Hudson was third across the line and second for the club with 28.23 and, as has been the case all season, had a great tussle with Leith Babian just a dozen seconds away in third.
Mitch Cunningham and Brad Sawyers also ran well to be in the top 10 and Scott Martin and Darrin Smith were not far behind.
At the end of all this great running KJS provided the traditional afternoon tea and Nowra club president Peter Dooley presented Kembla Joggers president Neil Barnett with the shield.
Next weekend sees the last run of the season at Huskisson as well as the short course cross country State titles in Sydney.
It will be a good way to finish the season before the presentation at Willandra on August 9.