Relay a ‘dream come true’ for Border runners

Like many Border legends, David Milne spent Wednesday night tossing, turning and checking his alarm hourly in anticipation of his leg of the Commonwealth Queen’s Baton Relay.

The Wodonga man coached Australian Special Olympics bocce, basketball and track and field teams for over 27 years, but in all his years coaching he said he’d never experienced a night so filled with excitement. 

“I never ever thought I’d be here,” he said.

“I’ve seen others run it and thought that’d be great one day but it was just a dream and now the dream has come true.

“Representing Wodonga and also Australia felt awesome.”

While Mr Milne was brimming with excitement, the first runner of the day, Sophie Weppner, was filled with butterflies. 

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The 14-year-old was recognised for her involvement as a Wodonga Catholic College community leader and her work with the Scouts and Girl Guides, where she has been awarded the highest award possible for her age.

“It was quite nerve-wracking and in front of everyone I knew at my school,” she said.

“I was worried but also excited.”

Wodonga’s 2017 Young Citizen of the Year and Special Olympian Alannah McKeown said it was amazing to run with the baton, chat with Lauren Jackson and be supported by her local community.

“They do all love me,” she said.

“It feels fantastic, it’s been a great opportunity.”

Miss McKeown’s father, Alan, said he was very proud of Alannah, who has down syndrome, and all she had achieved. 

“She always rises to the challenge,” he said.

Founder of Relay for Life in the Alpine Shire, Mitchell Chalwell, felt “very privileged and special” to be a part of the relay.

For Ms Chalwell one of the most amazing parts of the day, besides running her leg, was meeting all the other baton bearers. 

“The camaraderie on the bus is really good fun,” she said.

“It was great to have all the family here watching and cheering.

“You get off the bus and they’re all waving, it just helps with the nerves.”

When Emma Alrich started her charity and community work while growing up in Wodonga – she never thought it would lead to her running in the Queen’s Baton Relay.

“It’s unreal, like I’m living in a dream,” the 20-year-old said.

Miss Alrich was recognised for her volunteer work  on the Border and also in remote indigenous communities. She said a sense of community and desire to help others and better herself led her to start  community work.