St George Classic/Novice Championships over 100 years of history

Published Mon 10 May 2021

10 May 2021

St George Classic/Novice Championships over 100 years of history

The St George Classic, incorporating the NSW Novice Cross Country Championship will conduct its 108th edition on Saturday 22 May. First held on 10 June 1911, the race was won by Cecil Foster from East Sydney.

Unlike all other winter running events, the Novice has only been held at four venues. The first 15 races were held in the Rose Bay area including Lynne Park and the golf course. For one year in 1928 it was held in, followed by 11 years at the Kensington Racecourse. In 1940 it moved to its now permanent home Scarborough Park at Ramsgate. The race distance was five miles until 1970, when it switched to 10km. A women’s race was introduced in 1969 and after a few years run over 5km, it was reduced to 4km.

The concept of the novice race is unique with other States not conducting a similar race. To be eligible to compete, athletes must have not placed in NSW open distance events on the track, on the road or cross country.

Previous winners include a who’s who of great NSW distance runners on the rise. John Bromley (Western Suburbs), father of former NSW President Peter Bromley and grandfather of Athletics NSW Board Member Nick Bromley, won the 1947 title. Another great followed in 1948 when John Plummer won, two years before he would compete in the Commonwealth Games. During the ‘50s Olympians Albie Thomas (St George), Robert Vagg (Eastern Suburbs) and Dave Power (Western Suburbs) won the title. When Vagg won in 1958, the teenager clocked 25:04, over a minute faster than any other winner in history. During the ‘60s Vagg achieved it all in the sport. He represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics and won Australian titles on the track, road and over cross country.

In the ‘60s the leading winners were John Manuel (Sutherland) and Bruce Adams (Norths) with quick times of 25:27 and 26:10 respectively.

In 1976 St George’s Lawrie Whitty won over the new distance of 10km in a time 80 seconds faster than any other winner that decade.

In 1979 with first women’s race was held and won by Anna Schroder (Wollongong Southern Flame), while the following year NSW’s greatest ever distance runner, the late Kerryn McCann (WSF) won the title. During the ‘80s winners included sisters Lisa and Suzy Harrison (Campbelltown/Nepean, Tania Adams (Cumberland) and Suzy Walsham (RBK). Also during the ‘80s men’s winners were: Murray Halls (Western Suburbs), Danny Boltz (Western Suburbs), Andrew Douglas (Sutherland), David Lightfoot (SMC) and Colin Dalton (MW).

In the ‘90s some winners were transsexual runner Ricki Carne (RBH), future Olympian Eloise Wellings (nee Poppett) and 400m hurdler/800m athlete Stacey Quitzau. Male winners in this era included: John Wall (St George) and John Bowers jr (Sutherland).

Since 2000 winners have been Brooke Simpson (Sutherland), Melinda Vernon (Glenbrook), Madeleine Heiner (KEJ), Celia Sullohern (BMA) and Jenny Blundell (Cherrybrook). Men’s winners have been Brad Croker and James Nipperess (both Sydney Uni) and the third Harrison family member, Jason.

In the 2010’s the winners have included: triathletes Grace Musgrove (KEJ) and David Mainwaring (KEJ), a 12-year-old Imogen Stewart (ILL) and two-time world championships competitor, Morgan McDonald (RBH).

INAUGURAL RACE - 1911 NSW Novice Championship

Last Saturday 44 novices faced the starter in the novice five miles’ cross country championship conducted under the auspices of East Sydney AAC. The event was promoted to encourage runners who had not previously won a prize in long distance races and the total of 56 entries was very satisfactory. A cold wind blew across Rose Bay when the signal for starting was given at 3.45 and the competitors raced off, with Foster in the lead. The course was from Rose Bay baths, round the Naval Reserve, across the Royal Sydney golf links towards Watson’s Bay and back along New South Head Rd.

It was a stiff course and the winner was C.H.Foster, an East Sydney club member whose winning time was 33:21. The pace started pretty fast, but Foster was in it all the time and finally ran ahead of F.Colbert (Cumberland Harriers) by over a hundred yards. C.Bonham (South Sydney) was a close third. Forty-four started and most finished the race.


A 17-year-old athlete Doug Dickings won the five mile novice cross country race at Ramsgate on Saturday. Dickings is the junior two mile cross country champion and has been among the fastest men in open handicaps this season. His club, Botany, had an easy win in the teams race securing the necessary four places in the first 11. It was Botany’s fourth consecutive win and its 12th in the history of the race. Of the 54 entries, 45 runners started. Dickings went to the front and was not afterwards troubled. He won in 37:53 by 11 seconds from his club mate E.Gould.


What? St George Classic/Novice Championships

When? Saturday 22 May 2021

Where? Scarborough Park - Ramsgate

Entry? To enter and more information

David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW

Image: Winner of the 2014 Novice Championships, Morgan McDonald (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)