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The 1997 John Aitken Shield

The Final Showdown

The Results

............? Scrape Home In An Epic Battle
A press release for the Victorian Interclub Competition from Andrew Slocombe


The Final Showdown

And so it was that the inaugural John Aitken Shield interclub competition came down to the final event. There were two clubs with a chance to take their place in history - Wangaratta Ski Club, and Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club. The contest to date had been fierce, with sweat and tears spent just in recruiting club members for each event. Both clubs had 3 stage victories to their names, and at least two runner-up placings. With only 6 races counting points towards the Shield, whichever club won this last encounter would reign triumphant.

The sun shone down onto the Mt Loch car park and the Charles Derrick Memorial ski race, a fitting stage for this epic drama to unfold.The "Charlie" was a race steeped in tradition, and a glance down the previous winners list revealed many skiers of renown. Audun Endestat, Maria Theurl, Robin Rodd and Chris Heberle just to name a few. Around the car park and out the spur skiers were massing, kids, banners, supporters, parents, the works. The team captains ran back and forth, making sure everyone from their club was registered. One 9 year girl was persuaded to ski in the under 18 junior class only after much coercion and assurance that someone would chaperone her the entire way round the course.

And then the pack was away. Half a kilometre out of the start Big Benny Derrick of WSC took a fall, losing valuable time on a fast downhill and effectively putting him out of the running for line honours. Craig Cross from Telemark Nordic Ski Club hung on halfway up to Mt Loch and then Michal Trnka and Finn Marsland broke away. Both BNSC skiers, it didn't matter for the club who finished first, and Czech born Michal Trnka won the race by a comfortable 20 seconds. In the womens, Australian cross country champion Camille Melvey held off Australian biathlon champion Lynn-Maree Cranage in a very tight finish. But while the open individual race honours were easy to indentify, other specific placings in the six race categories were not. All you could really tell was that it was going to go down to the wire.

A telemarking spree, a few hours and a few beers later, the Wangaratta Ski Club Lodge at Mt St Bernard was packed. Past Charlies were relived, old stories told and new sagas begun. Leaders from both clubs were gracious, admitting to each other that the other club may well have won and praising the battle itself. Even with the result sheets circulating, with equal points available in juniors,masters,and open categories, for men and women, working out the results without a pen or calculator was nigh impossible. Yes its going to be close everyone acknowledged. The presentations came and went. The suspension built up. Finally the bean counters emerged, Andrew Slocombe and Chris Derrick. Each had added up the scores 3 times, swapped sheets, checked the others calculations and now they were certain. The score. Wangaratta Ski Club, 84 points. Birkebeiner, 86 points. Two points. Two points. The number of 'if's were incredible. If one skier hadn't shown up. If Ben Derrick hadn't fallen. If any WSC and BNSC people had swapped places. And looking down the result list, maybe the biggest if of all. Jaffa Goebel, the 9 year old, finished 5th in her class and secured 5 points for Birkebeiner.

And lo, a new tradition was born. The John Aitken Shield interclub final at the Charles Derrick Memorial was considered by many to be the highlight of the season. A healthy, friendly, extrememly competitive yes, social and enjoyable competition. The fact that everyone over the age of 50 who entered received a bottle of port from Brown Brothers and maybe a bottle of champagne if they were lucky was just an added bonus.


The Results

The 1997 John Aitken Shield

Place

Club

Points

1

Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club

56

2

Wangaratta Ski Club

54

3

Melbourne Nordic Ski Club

32

4

Telemark Nordic Ski Club

25

5

Mt Bullfight Ski Club

14

6

Howmans Gap Allstars

4

7

Mansfield Nordic Ski Club

3

BNSC v WSC - head to head

Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club

Wangaratta Ski Club

Event

Score

Place

Points

Score

Place

Points

Victorian Interclub Relays

56

1

10

35

2

8

Birkebeiner Classic

92

1

10

72

2

8

Hotham to Dinner Plain

64

2

8

76

1

10

Bullfight Charge

68

1

10

20

4

4

Razorback Rush

50

2

8

53

1

10

Rocky Valley Rush

71

2

8

85

1

10

Charles Derrick Memorial

86

1

10

84

2

8

Total (best 6)

56

54


Birkebeiner Scrape Home in an Epic Battle

Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club won the first ever Skiing Victoria Cross Country Interclub Series by a narrow margin from Wangaratta Ski Club. This has set the scene for the series to grow enormously with close competition and club involvement for years to come. The exiting result reflected the enjoyment and enthusiasm generated within clubs throughout Victoria.

The Skiing Victoria Cross Country Interclub Series was initiated for the first time in 1997. The Series kicked off with the Victorian Interclub Relays in July and involved seven major citizen races throughout Victoria. The final leg was held at Mt Hotham with the Charles Derrick Memorial in September. The first ever club based competition within Australia proved to be a success with the overall result determined with a two point win in the final leg in the seven race series.

It was a magnificent start to what will become an exiting and enjoyable event for all skiers to be involved in. Good conditions greeted most of the events and the involvment from clubs grew enormously within the season.

Mr Barry Jones, the series coordinator said. "We could not have wished for a better start to our series. This is what skiing is all about, club involvement, comradeship, and fun competition in a relaxed atmosphere and most of all getting out an giving it a go. The series is something everyone wants to be involved in, and that can only be good for the sport."

Six races in the series had an increase in participation of 30%-50%, which reflected the large numbers of skiers who got involved.

The series has opened an opportunity for skiers of any age or ability to be involved with their club and recreational racing. The series has also given another level of competition to allow for the development of Victorian racers.

Andrew Slocombe Sport Development Officer of Skiing Victoria said " I believe that this series will be a focus point for skier involvement for all ability levels and from all over the state. Barry Jones should be congratulated on a concept that will take cross country skiing into the next millennium and beyond. With the success of this years event watch out 1998."

As the last traces of snow fade, clubs are already looking toward the 1998 series. If you would like to be involved or would like any further information please contact, Andrew Slocombe on (03) 9650 7270.



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