Ararat runner Lauchlan Dalgleish getting ready for the Ararat Gift.
Track to light up
11 Feb, 2011
ARARAT - Local and interstate runners will be burning up the track tomorrow night when the 2011 Ararat Gift kicks off at Alexandra Oval.
The Ararat Highland Sports Society is expecting hundreds of spectators through the gates for an action packed evening of racing.
While athlete entries are slightly down on last year, president Joe Perry said competition would be fierce.
"Entry numbers are down a little bit from last year but that is most likely due to the fact that Prahran has its meeting (tonight)," he said.
"A lot of interstate runners may not want to stay in Victoria for two nights. We still have some South Australian runners coming but not as many as other years.
"We don't get some of the big name runners that other Gifts get but we have some very good runners which will make for some good competition. It will be a great night of racing."
A six-race card is sure to keep onlookers entertained as runners battle it out over distances ranging from 70 metres to 1600 metres.
The 120 metre Ararat Gift is shaping up to be quite a showdown, with several quality athletes in contention for the $5,000 prize.
Williamstown sprinter and 2008 Stawell Gift winner Sam Jamieson will headline the field, racing off a handicap of 2.75 metres.
The 24-year-old is somewhat out of form after taking a two and a half year break from the sport, however he is expected to throw down the challenge in the heats.
Also among the chances is Queensland's Aaron Stubbs who won the Stawell Gift as a teenager in 2009.
The beach sprinter has been allocated a handicap of three metres and will be one to keep an eye on throughout the evening.
Last year's Ararat Gift winner and Stawell Gift finalist Douglas Greenough will be back to defend his title off 6.75 metres.
Greenough was a popular victor last year and will be looking to regain some form ahead of the Easter carnival.
While Jamieson, Stubbs and Greenough are some of the more high profile athletes hitting the track tomorrow, their recent form has been nowhere near as impressive as that of Matthew Hargreaves who has already placed in two Gifts this season.
The Tarneit athlete finished third at Northcote, before backing up with a win at Woodside in December, his first ever Gift win in Victoria.
He has also had success over longer distances, finishing second in the 200 metre open at Maryborough.
Another in form athlete is local talent Lauchlan Dalgleish who trains under the guidance of Marcus Cooper.
A newcomer to the sport, Dalgleish burst onto the scene with a third in the 70 metre open final at Terang and a second placing in the 120 metre Terang Gift.
He was forced to settle for third in the 70 metre novice final at Maryborough before breaking through with a win in the Maryborough Novice 120m.
The teenager has since placed third in the 400 metre open final at St Albans.
Perry said he was looking forward to watching Dalgleish in action.
"He has had a very encouraging start to his running career," he said.
"It will be great to see him running on his home track and it will add a bit of local interest to the event."
In addition to trying his luck in the 120 metre Ararat Gift, Dalgleish will contest the 70 metre open and the 400 mere open.
Several other Ararat runners will also be hitting the track tomorrow night.
Sarah Blizzard, Julia Boatman and Tiffany Boatman will all line up in the 300 metre women's and veterans' event, the 70 metre open and the 100 metre women's in hopes of featuring among the $700 prize money on offer for each race.
Tyson Carr and Marcus Cooper are set to compete against Dalgleish in the 70 metre open, with Cooper also planning to run in the 120 metre Gift.
Ararat's Corey Heard and Melissa Perry will contest the 1600 metre open, while veteran Stawell runner Stephen Baird will increase the local interest in the 300 metre women's and veterans' and the 70 metre open.
The non-stop racing action will kick off from 6pm but there will be plenty of other entertainment to keep adults and children amused.
Little Athletics events and traditional highland dancing return to the Ararat Gift this year and will add to the atmosphere of the event.
Catering will be provided by the Ararat Y's Men and Y's Menettes who will run a barbecue for the duration of the evening.
Mr Perry said planning and running the event was a real community effort.
"People in town are banding together to help out and support the Gift and Stawell are backing us with starters, judges and officials like they always do," he said.
"As a club we want to strongly emphasise that we are doing this for the town of Ararat. It is not a profit building event by any means."
Mr Perry said Ararat Rural City Council had also been a great support.
"We would again like to thank the outdoor staff for preparing Alexandra Oval," he said.
"They have been putting the finishing touches on the track (this week).
"A lot of runners have said that Ararat has the best running track in the state. We are lucky to have it."