NIC Van Raaphorst faces a major challenge to defend his Wal Brown cross country title at the University of Ballarat today.
One of the most prestigious events in the Ballarat Regional Athletic Centre winter series, the Wal Brown has attracted the best field of the season.
Van Raaphorst (YCW) heads the open men’s line-up with clubmate Jamie Huggett, Ballarat Harrier’s Nathan Hartigan and Eureka’s Duer Yoa all major contenders.
Hartigan and Yoa, who is returning after an injury-enforced lay-off, are multiple BRAC cross country feature race winners, but Huggett goes into this eight-kilometre event as the form runner.
Dating back to 1921, this is the second last race in the series.
Originally called the Ballarat 5-Mile, it was renamed to honour Wal Brown, who was a leading state distance runner and founding member of YCW.
The race moved out to the existing circuit in the mid-1990s after being at Mount Clear for 10 years.
Ballarat distance running legends Stan Nicholls, Tony Benson, Steve Moneghetti, Shaun Creighton and Brown are among past winners, with three-time Olympian Lee Troop holding the race record of 24 minutes, 33 seconds.
The open women’s 4km features last year’s winner Courtney Scott (Eureka), who faces a stiff test from Louise Wood (YCW), Angela Williams (Wendouree) and Rachel Gibney (Harriers).
YCW’s Natalya Hall-Dekleva and Wendouree’s Natasha Typuszak might also feature prominently.
Wendouree’s talented junior duo of Nick Fidler and Sam Williams will be the ones to watch in the men’s under-14 events, as will Amy Canavan (Eureka) and Paris Panozzo (Eureka) in the women’s under-14 and 16 races.
The under-12 boys and girls run a 2km loop from 2pm.
All men, excluding under-14 and under-16 start the 8km race at 2,15pm.
The open women, and under-14 and under-16 men run 4km, from 2.20pm.