“Hippo” helps middle distance running traditions thrive

Date: 19th April 2019

By David Griffin (with help from Tim Mason, pic by Neil Jameson)

Whilst much of the focus is on the sprinters at the Stawell Gift, middle distance running remains a
critical part of the three-day event.

Veteran Mark Hipworth is a ‘rusted on’ middle distance coach with this year’s Stawell Gift his 39th
consecutive meeting.

Known as ‘Hippo’, the easy going coach has over 30 athletes in his stable competing in various
distances up to the energy sapping 3200 metres, and he is looking forward to this year’s Gift.

“I have always loved the Easter weekend, it’s the highlight of the year for me”, he said this week.

“Its been part of my family for a long time and I can’t see that ever changing”.
Known as a hard-core middle distance fan, it may come as a surprise to many that Hipworth finished
a credible third in the 1984 Stawell Gift.

“At Stawell in 1981 I won the 800 metres, the 550 and got third in the 400 metres. My handicap was
slashed the following year, so much so that I was on zero metres in the 800, so I decided to sprint
which is how I ended up in the Stawell Gift final”.

“I actually came into the sport to improve my footy at VFA club Camberwell”.
Other than his wins in 1981, Hipworth has had great success at Stawell also winning the 3200m in
1993 and 1994. In total he has had four wins, three seconds and seven third placings.

One of only 13 Stawell Legends, he now dedicates his time to coaching and estimates he has helped
more than 30 winners at Stawell.

“We have had some success over the years but it’s about the athletes themselves. They need to be
dedicated and focused about what they are doing”.

“I have a view with all my runners and its simple, set your own path, have a crack, and be the best
version of yourself that you can be.”

With a passion for running Hipworth sees junior athletes as the future of the sport.

“Our squad sponsors the Under 18 800m race at Stawell and I think this is an opportunity for me to
give back to the sport and attract some new young runners”.

“Juniors are our future and hopefully the opportunity to compete on the hallowed turf of Central
Park will whet their appetite to continue to compete in the professional ranks”, he said.

Hipworth’s son Morgan is following in his fathers’ footsteps. At 18 years of age he has spent his
entire life at Stawell over Easter.

Not only is Morgan an improving middle distance athlete but he has become a celebrity in his own
right and now has over 70,000 people following his Instagram account @bistromorgan.

For Hipworth, one of the highlights of the Stawell carnival is the” The Herb Hedemann” mile.
“There are some great distance races all weekend at Stawell, but The Herb Hedemann is a mile
invitation race and only the good runners win it, it’s a classic”.

“It’s on Television and it’s a great race for people to watch and become accustomed to pro running”.
Herb Hedemann is a legend of professional athletics. A world class athlete he was the first man to
break the four-minute mile on grass. He also won the Federation Mile and Grampian Stakes on the
same day in both 1912 and 1913.

This year’s Hedemann sees a red-hot race field that includes former Australian junior
representatives Jesse Dunsmore and Nathan Pearce up against well credentialled cross country stars
Jack Davies and William Potter.

Like a lot of families that come to Stawell, professional running is in Mark Hipworths blood, it’s a
tradition and unlikely to change.

“Stawell is part of my life and I don’t know anything else. I enjoy playing a small part in continuing
the middle-distance running traditions at Stawell and in a way it’s my contribution to a great sport”.

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