It is fitting that the event that started it all back in 1931, when the first challenge race took place between Old Xaverians, Old Scotch and Old Wesley through the paddocks of Kew and Hawthorn, now takes pride of place as the final race on the winter calendar. The Cooke-McClelland is also the last of the five premiership races, which means that the results of the event often determine the champion teams and athletes of the year.
The race is named after two of the founding members of Old Xaverians Athletic Club, John “Jack” Cooke and Tom McClelland. It is run over a testing 8 km course around the Kew Boulevard and Yarra Bend. The course rises and falls several times, and many athletes have suffered late in the race after going out too hard on the early hills.
Unlike some other APSOC events, the Cooke-McClelland course has remained relatively unchanged over almost half a century, allowing direct comparisons between performances during that time. Only five male athletes have broken 25 minutes, with Nick de Castella (OX) doing it twice and setting the course record of 24:37 in 1981. The outstanding quality of this run explains why it remains the oldest record on the APSOC books. Anna Thompson (OW) dominates the fastest women’s times, with 27:25 being her best in 2002. The open team’s race is always hotly contested, with Old Scotch holding the three lowest team scores under the current scoring system. Perhaps because it is the last event in the season, the afternoon tea at Burke Hall is always one of the best of the year, and may be followed by a few quiet drinks at the nearby Clifton Hotel at Kew Junction before everyone heads off to get ready for the APSOC Annual Dinner that night.