The first race of the Professional Cross Country Club of Tasmania was held in Burnie in 1968.
Burnie’s Mike McKenna, at 23 years old Tasmania’s long distance amateur running champion, lost his amateur status immediately after this picture was taken. As soon as his right foot passed over the white line he became a professional. The photo appeared in the local newspaper the following day. Mike was competing in the first race organised by the recently formed NW division of the Tasmanian Professional Cross Country Club. It was run from Burnie Park to Brickport Road and return. Only 19 started the race with 15 completing it. Mike McKenna recorded fastest time and was second across the line.
Brian Payne (left) and Ron Nielson pictured competing in a PCCCT six mile race at Wynyard in 1968. Ron was a well-known Wynyard businessman took up distance running for his health and ‘wins his share of races’. Ron went on to win the very first Feature Race a few months later.
The First Feature Race
A good deal of publicity surrounded the first PCCCT Feature Race as Mike McKenna, for the first time in his short professional career, had another runner start behind him after 22 consecutive starts as the ‘scratchman’. The runner who had the unenviable task of catching McKenna was Victorian professional Don Brain, holder of six world records.
The $200 race was held over 11 miles from Wynyard to Burnie’s BP service station on North Terrace on Sunday, September 8. Lance Woods was club handicapper.
Mike went on to average under 5 minutes for each mile as he recorded 54 minutes 29 seconds – a pace which if had maintained for another mile would’ve broken Don Brain’s 12 mile world record. Brain, who came over from Victoria specifically for the race, withdrew at the four mile mark with cramping.
The race winner, Ron Neilson, ran from the 22 minute mark and finished three minutes ahead of fellow Wynyard man Darryl Alexander. Dennis Moore was fourth and Mark Catlin fifth. John McGuire was seventh, Brian Paine tenth and Barry Ling was 15th running 70 minutes. More than 500 people followed the race along the route and the majority were at the finish line to welcome the runners.
The first three placegettters in the North-West Professional Cross Country Club’s 10,000m Championship at Sulphur Creek contested the Australian Titles at Flemington on May 28, 19??
They are third placed David Quarrell of Launceston, Trevor Keating who came second and winner Viv Woodward, both of Devonport.
The 1978 Feature Race
Except from The Advocate 1978: –
“CROSS COUNTRY FIRST
“The North West Professional Cross will be used for the first time tonight when a Calcutta is conducted on tomorrow’s Wynyard to Burnie feature race.The clubhouse is part of an old running change shed renovated by the N.W P.C.C.C.
“The club was assisted by a $3000 State Government grant. Work on the project started three months ago.The Calcutta Is expected to be worth between $500 and $1000.
Tickets will be sold between 7.30 p.m. and 8p.m. and bidding will start at 8 p.m.
“The 61 competitors will be hoping for fine weather.Early forecasts indicate the weather will be mild with patchy drizzle and light north east to north westerly winds.
“Backmarker and favourite for the race, Viv Woodward of Devonport, will have to better 55 minutes to win, according to judges. Last year he ran the 17.6 km in 55 minutes 26 seconds and finished second.”