Club History

Cross Country

Formed initially as a track club it was a few seasons before the Wendouree Amateur Athletic Club established its own regular cross-country season. In the very early years those who did not play football and were of a mind to keep running during the winter could most likely be found fronting up and competing as a member of the Ballarat Harriers. By the mid to late fifties; however, the Wendouree singlet could be found competing in the Ballarat Regional Centre races and V.A.A.A. championships as well as participating in the club's own events.

In the initial years, Ballarat Local Centre races and pack runs from member's homes followed by a run over distances upwards of half a mile were common to the W.A.A.C.'s cross-country program. The B.L.C. events included:

  • the Ballarat 5 mile (8km) CC which was first contested in 1921,
  • the Chas Suffren Memorial 4 mile (6.4km) - 1948,
  • the Lake Wendouree Relays - 1949,
  • the Ballarat - Daylesford Relay - 1953,
  • the George Richardson 10 mile - 1958 and
  • the Lap of the Lake, which was introduced in 1961.


Wendouree had conducted its own Lap of the Lake since 1953, the Geo. Elshaugh Cup, first contested by a field of four and won by J. Saunders in June of that year. From 1955 it has been run as the club's Summer Lap of the Lake. A 2 mile championship and a mile championship are also recorded as being held in 1953 but not in subsequent seasons. The McAuley Cup is another of the club's earliest continuously contested trophies. Also awarded for the Lap of the Lake (winter), it was first presented in 1958 coinciding with what may be considered as the club's first organized cross-country season.

Other enduring events include the Wendouree 3 Mile Handicap, renamed in 1965 as the K. J. Curtis Handicap, the Franklin / Seery & Associates 10km Handicap and the King of the Mountain which was added to the program in the late 1960's.

Prior to 1973 the W.A.A,C.'s two cross-country championship were ran over 2 miles, ran at the lake, and 5 miles CC. In 1973 these events became the 5km road race and the 10km championship as is on the current program. In recent seasons the club has again awarded an 8km cross-country championship to make it three such events on the winter calendar. Also included on the club's 1974 cross-country syllabus was an obstacle course, the Country Marathon, a beach run, a point to point, a combined run with YCW, the Eaglehawk to Bendigo, the Victorian 10km, a camp as well as pack runs and Ballarat Regional Centre events. As the make up of the cross-country season has evolved over the 25 years since other events such as the Iron Man/ Iron Woman at Bungal Dam, the McLennan Handicap and the Nuggety Dam Handicap have become ingrained into the winter program. The last 10 years has also seen the participation by teams of Wendouree athletes in almost all Athletics Victoria winter events. This has meant that the nine current A.V. events being the 8km, 12km and 16km cross country, 10km and 15km road race, half marathon, Sandown, Cross Country and Coliban Relays have also had to be integrated into the syllabus to avoid clashes with major club handicaps and championships

With the possible exception of the Lap of the Lake pretty much every major club race, and for that matter the B.R.C. and A.V., has had some modification or variation in its course over the years. Construction of the Ballarat by-pass through the Nerrina area forced the relocation of the start of the K. J. Curtis Handicap from Simpson Street to Lofven Street. The 10km handicap previously known as the Franklin was also redesigned and took on a new incarnation about this time as the Seery & Associates 10km. The 5km championship was ran at the Ballarat Airport for a few years before being shifted to Victoria Park and the 10km championship used to start and finish within the grounds of Nicholson Park at the White Swan Reservoir before the park was closed to public access. While the king of the Mountain was ran for a number of years before hand, times suggest that the current course starting from the shops in the town of Buninyong was adopted in 1975. The Iron Man was originally ran over 2 laps (10 miles) but has been reduced to just one of 5 miles/8 km, while the McLennan Handicap and Pipeline Classic have had varying routes through the bush of Mt. Clear and Nerrina respectively.

While most of the success of the Wendouree Athletic Club has come on the track it has achieved some notable results during the winter season also. In 1960 Trevor Chisholm became the first club athlete to win a Ballarat Regional Centre championship by claiming the Ballarat 5 mile, a feat he repeated the following year as well as winning the inaugural B.R.C. Lap of the Lake. Lindsay Burgoyne (1974 & 1982) emulated the Lap of the Lake success as well as winning the George Richardson 10 mile in 1980, an event also won previously by Robert Brookes in 1978. Mervyn Johnstone has been the club's most prolific winner of B. R.A.C. events taking out the Lap of the Lake (1989), the Richardson 10 mile and the Wal Brown 8km (both in 1994) as well as the Chas Suffren Memorial 6.4km on three occasions (1990, 1991 and 1992). In addition Mervyn has won the Victorian Country Cross-Country title twice (1990 and 1992). Cathie Morcom is the club's only winner of a B.R.A.C. open female winter title having claimed the Richardson Family 5km (1985) and the Wal Brown 4km (1986).

Many junior Wendouree athletes have had their names etched into history as winners of age group titles at local level. George Eppingstall indelibly etched his name to the club's honour roll in 1997 by winning Victorian titles on the road over 10km and 15km in the 50+ age category. While in the season just past Robert Brookes in the 45+ 8km and 12km CC and Catherine Ranger in the Under 18 3km CC also became Victorian champions.

While Daylesford Relay and Lake Relay success has eluded the club thus far we have tasted the fruits of team victory managing to win the men's A grade Cross Country Premiership in 1986. In that season the club won the Chas Suffren, the Wal Brown 8km CC and the Richardson 10 mile to score its first and only 'A' grade winter premiership. Perhaps due to its orientation as more of a track club in its earlier years and the strength of the opposition clubs, Ballarat Harriers and particularly YCW in the modern era, winter premierships of any kind have not been plentiful for Wendouree. The success of the Veteran's team winning the 1999 Cross-Country Premiership is the only other that comes to mind although the club has fielded some strong junior teams in years past. As a team the club has also won numerous pennants in the lower grades of V.A.A.A.A.V. competition and, in the period of perhaps it greatest strength in distance running, has even won two 'C2' division premierships in 1990 and 1995. In 1996 the club won the men's 'B' Grade team for the half marathon, the club's highest A.V. pennant, and the following year was ranked in Division 1 for the A.V. winter season.

The challenge of the marathon has been one that has been taken on keenly by members of the Wendouree Athletic Club. No fewer than 48 members are recorded as completing the 42.195km event. Kingsley Curtis is shown as the first Wendouree athlete to complete a competitive marathon running 3.26.59 for the distance in 1965. Since then club athletes have forged a strong record over the marathon. Max Hughes - 3.31.14 (1969) is the next to be listed with Alf Pratt - 2.55.22 (1971). Peter Bethune - 2.52.46 (1974), Len Loveless - 2.39.40 (1975) and Robert Brookes - 2.30.55 (1977) all setting new standards in the ensuing years. Robert Wallis was one of the club's most prolific marathoners winning a number of Country Marathon titles through the eighties and early nineties and set a personal best time of 2.24.39 in 1987. Heading the list of the club's marathon rankings are Mervyn and Malcolm Johnstone. Mervyn's 2.16.12 ran in Los Angeles in 1990 stands clear and ranks as one of the finest individual performances by a Wendouree athlete while Malcolm recorded a best of 2.18.25 in 1995. Both can claim to have had international careers with Mervyn also running in London and Berlin while Malcolm competed in the Macau Marathon in 1991. Eight women are recorded as having completed marathons. Lisa Morcom who ran 3.45.51 in 1985 being the first while Sharon Schnyder holds the best time on record, 3.18.50 in 1994, marginally faster than Vicki Roberts' 3.19.23 ran in 1991.

Such has been the affinity of the club with the marathon event that it even staged the Central Highlands / Ballarat Marathon for a number of years from the mid eighties. Consisting of almost seven full laps of Lake Wendouree this event provided a number of club members with their marathoning experience.

For some the challenge of the marathon was apparently not enough. With the rise to prominence of ultra marathon events the club conducted its own 50-mile race in conjunction with the marathon as part of the CHASE carnival. The event drew considerable interest and attracted the likes of Cliff Young, who became an instant icon in the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne race, to compete and from memory even yielded an Australian record for the distance. Seven Wendouree athletes completed a fifty mile event and by virtue of that alone all bear listing here. Michael Walsh - 6.18.54 (1985), Len Loveless - 6.21.53 (1987), Stewart Pike - 6.26.24, Ron King -6.34.17 (1987), Graeme Quick - 7.14.16 (1985), Geoff Russell - 8.04.18 (1985) and Bryan Whitecross - 8.16.03 (1989).

While Country considering the exploits of the ultra marathoners it is perhaps worth reflecting a bit more on the activities of Len Loveless. A respected member of the club for and his contributions on and off the track over a number of years Len had an dedicated approach to anything he undertook. Ultra marathons by definition require a significant volume of training and it was not unusual to see Len at most anytime of the day out running. He would often run to and from competitions which, in the circumstances, is perhaps not too exceptional. But when the event is in Geelong, as the A.V. 8km CC was one year, and Len was picked up by the team bus on the outskirts of the city having set out from Ballarat that morning one gets an indication of the level of commitment that Len imposed on himself. In 1990 Len is recorded as having completed 123km during a 12-hour race extending the limits of endurance beyond that of any other Wendouree athlete.