Andrew McCabe (white) wins the Ballarat Gift from Joel Bee (Blue) and Ben Weaver (Green).
Ballarat Gift cements place
02 May, 2011
BALLARAT Athletic Club president Shane Woodrow says the Ballarat Gift carnival was cementing its place as a celebration meet all runners were hungry to win.
This is the second year the club has opted for a two-day fixture on the weekend after the iconic Stawell Gift to close the Victorian Athletic League season.
Woodrow said the weekend’s Ballarat Gift meet at Eureka Stadium had served up stellar times – even impressing VAL officials – and attracted top quality competitors from national and international ranks.
“Everyone works up to the Stawell Gift, it’s like the grand final of the season, and then Ballarat is a last chance to win,” Woodrow said.
“The crowd this year was definitely up and stronger.
“It’s been a really long season for all athletes and the ones here really enjoy the season, so it’s more of a celebration meet for them.”
Ballarat’s $30,000 Gift field boasted four Stawell Gift finalists, including Queenslander Andrew McCabe – who captured the Ballarat title – Paul Cracoft-Wilson, Ben Weaver and Ballarat university student Kevin Brittain.
Stawell Gift winner Mitch Williams was unable to compete after tearing his hamstring in a dramatic finish at Central Park while finalist Edward Ware was unavailable.
McCabe and Weaver reached the podium in Ballarat while Cracoft-Wilson was a finalist and Brittain made the semi-finals.
Past Stawell Gift winners Adrian Mott (2006) and Aaron Stubbs (2009) were also in the Ballarat Gift mix this year.
Woodrow was also pleased with the “international flavour” at this year’s meet, including English Commonwealth Games sprinter Melanie Purkiss, who was runner-up in the Ballarat Women’s Gift, and 400m contender Arnold Sorinas from Vanuatu.
Australian rising junior sprint queen Sophie Taylor thrilled crowds with her impressive, clear Women’s Gift win off two metres and win in a photo finish with McCabe for the open 70m title. Taylor is a national under-18 girls’ 100m and 200m champion and Victorian open 100m champion.
Australian Paralympic hopeful Jack Swift, a national ambulant 100m and 200m finalist, was also in action, contesting the Athletes With a Disability 120m, which is the sole AWD event on the VAL calendar.
Ballarat’s hometown rising stars also lifted their game.
Australian 400m finalist Joel Bee was runner-up in the Gift after posting the fastest heat and semi-final times while veteran Rod Mathews was outmarker for the final.
Rising star Matt Wiltshire reached the Gift semis and captured the restricted 120m novice title, backing up his novice sash at Stawell for the same distance.
Husband-wife duo Nathan and Trish Fox shared the front and backmarkers’ 400m double.
Woodrow said the club hoped the Ballarat Gift carnival would continue to build a presence on the VAL calendar.