For obvious reasons I won't post on Albany, so I will give an impartial view of the Stawell Gift on ProTrack.
Firstly congratulations must go to Mark O'Brien and his panel of handicappers on an outstanding Stawell Gift. The spread of times among the 22 heats - 12.26 to 12.67 is the best we've ever seen in 130 years. Never before have all the heats been won in a time within 0.50 secs from the fastest to the slowest.
I can't recall ever being so intrigued and confounded over who will win. There were five genuine contenders in the final. Kevin Brittain was the only athlete who could not win based on the semi results.
I changed my mind several times during the course of the weekend over who would win.
After the heats I initially thought it was between Mitchell Williams and Ben Weaver but as we got to Tuesday, I widened my view to include Ed Ware, Andrew McCabe and Paul Cracroft-Wilson.
I hand timed 19 of the 22 heats and my fastest 4 were:
Ben Weaver 12.00
Mitch Williams 12.02
Ed Ware 12.03
Paul Cracroft-Wilson 12.05
The rest I had outside 12.10.
Basically it came down to the athlete who was prepared best to get that ounce more out of themselves when it mattered. And in the finish the two that found the most were the two backmarkers Williams & McCabe.
I remember watching Mitchell Williams-Swain a couple of years ago. 2009 Bay Sheff winner Russell Scott had tipped him as one to watch due to his impressive beach sprint form. He ran from 7.0m then and looked raw but certainly had the natural talent to go places.
When heat one of the Stawell Gift went to their marks, I was unaware that Mitch Williams had dropped the Swain from his name. Watching him in the heat I soon realised it was the same kid from two years ago.
It's staggering that anyone could complain about this kid's mark. He had 7.00m when he ran in 2009 and ran an adjusted time of 12.51, failing to qualify for the semis. He also finshed 2nd in the 70m final.
Two years later he is back 0.50m against a field that had been lifted for the inclusion of Kim Collins.
He's clearly improved substantially since 2009 and kudos must go to him for knuckling down and doing the work necessary.
He and McCabe brought the X factor to the race. Tightly marked but in terrific 120m form.
It was a brilliant effort by Williams and a much deserved Stawell success for his coach Brett Robinson.
It's no coincidence that the two most prestigious, biggest and 'hardest to win' gifts in the country - Stawell and the Bay Sheffield were won by well performed beach sprinters.
As more beach sprinters emerge and are exposed to the sport by astute & experienced coaches such as Ryan Hoffman (Aaron Stubbs) , Brett Robinson (Williams) & Pete Burdett (Jordan Caldow) the depth and quality of the Gift running will improve.
My view is that some long established members of the pro-running fratenity have been caught resting on their laurels, waiting for the VAL handicapping system to do the work for them. They have been left behind while others relatively new to the sport have worked out what they need to do to be successful.
The handicapping system as administered by the current VAL handicapping panel has been a resounding success.
Mitch Williams was a worthy winner and regardless of the few whingers out there, the vast majority of us thoroughly enjoyed the intrigue and element of surprise he and others brought to the event.
A great Stawell Gift that will live long in the memories of those who lucky enough to be there.