AS THE second half of Athletics Victoria’s XCR22 season kicks off at Bundoora Park this Saturday, Bendigo Bats lead the premiership race in five divisions.

A huge day of racing at Bundoora includes selection trials for the Australian Cross Country Championships and Victorian All Schools XC titles.

Open and over-age men’s and women’s races will be 10km on the testing slopes.

Juniors will race 3km, 4km, 6km, or 8km to decide the schools championships.

In a superb return to men’s premier division of XCR, Bendigo leads the way on 58 points from Box Hill, 46; St Stephens, 41; Western Athletics, 41; and Glenhuntly, 35.

Number one team in the opening four rounds, Bendigo’s streak was broken by Box Hill at the Sandown Park Road Relays.

The Bats’ line-up which raced in Premier Division at Sandown was Nathan Stoate, Matt Buckell, Harrison Boyd, Brady Threlfall and Glenn McMillan.

The region’s number one runner, Andy Buchanan is in Europe preparing to make his Commonwealth Games debut in the marathon at Birmingham.

Sidelined because of injury the past three rounds, Archie Reid from Moama will make a welcome return to the Bats’ squad this Saturday.

The Bats also have Nigel Preston back from injury for this round.

A strong men’s squad includes Jamie Cook, Brian McGinley and Stephen van Rees.

Among the many highs for Bendigo Region in XCR22 is the form of the division four women who have won all five rounds to lead the premiership race on 85 points from Mornington, 74; and Diamond Valley, 63.

The Bats’ line-up at Sandown was Gold Coast Commonwealth Games marathon runner Virginia McCormick, Alice Wilkinson and Vanessa Bull.

Bendigo leads the race in men’s division four on 75 points from Ivanhoe, 65; and Glenhuntly, 49.

In men’s division seven it’s Bendigo on top on 49 from Sandringham, 36; and Coburg, 27.

Bendigo is 5th and 14th in women’s division five on scores of 18 and three.

The Bats have starred in junior categories.

Tullie Rowe, Tully Lang and Phoebe Lonsdale raced at Sandown in the under-20 class and have scored 45 points to be second in a premiership race led by Geelong on 51.

Bats’ young guns Jayden Padgham, Avery McDermid and Logan Tickell starred at Sandown.

Bendigo leads the under-18 men’s ladder on 51 points in a duel with goldfields rival, Ballarat on 40.

Next best are Doncaster, 35; and Bendigo (2) on 28.

Standings for Bendigo Region in other classes are 8th in under-18 women’s; 7th in under-16 girls; 4th in 40-plus men; equal 7th in 50-plus men; 9th in 50-plus women; and 10th in 60-plus men.