2008 – Tousles and tumbles at Central Park

Date: 29th January 2008

Central Park witnessed it all this Easter for the Australia Post Stawell Gift with fierce tousles, spectacular tumbles and tight finishes highlighting a thrilling distance program.

Pre-race favourite Sam Jamieson stormed to a convincing two metre win in the 127th Australia Post Stawell Gift.  The 21-year-old recently left his long time coach, the legendary Jim Bradley to join the training group of Nick Fiedler – a decision that paid dividends.    Alongside Fiedler and Bradley to cheer on the talented athlete were his parents and sister Sally, who was an impressive runner-up in the Provincial Victoria Women’s Gift.

But it was the distance races that supplied the most entertaining and breathtaking moments.

A dramatic finish in the first final of the carnival saw 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medallist Sean Quilty produce a Steven Bradbury-like performance to take victory in the Official Supporters Club Frontmarkers 1600m.

Quilty, running off a mark of 155m, grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat when the leader, Renee Wilmick, hit the point of exhaustion and stumbled 35m from the finish line.

Closely trailing Wilmick, Stawell veteran Dale Millard, also severely fatigued, was unable to avoid tripping over her and as both athletes stumbled again struggling to find their feet, Quilty swooped past to claim the $750 prize.

For Millard it was a heartbreaking finish to his lifelong pursuit to continue his family’s rich history at Stawell by winning a sash. His grandfather W.J. Millard won the initial Stawell Gift back in 1878, whilst his son Daniel won in 1997. Millard was second in last year’s frontmarkers 1600m event and following this years run plans to enjoy Stawell from the sidelines in the future, announcing his retirement immediately after the race.

The final lap of the Graeme Delehuntly Memorial Backmarkers 1600m was just as entertaining as the leaders shared blows in some heated jostling.  Tempers and emotions flaring, a brief tussle broke out at the finish line.

Staying out of trouble was South Australia’s Hayden Cook (100m), who came through for a crowd pleasing victory ahead of Michael Ryde (95m) and Richard Polkinghorne (120m).

The Veterans’ and Women’s 1500m saw three generations of the same family competing: former Australian 1500m champion Dean Paulin, his father Ted and daughter Emily. However, their combined experience was not enough for the well-timed run of Corina Kapusta (245m), who took the lead with 150m to go to take victory.  John Walton (275m) and Austin Beamish (255m) took out the minor places.

The only 3200m race in the Victorian Athletic League program saw an enthralling battle with backmarker and former World Cross Country representative Mark Thompson (scratch) making his return to athletics gaining significant ground to finish a gallant third (9:07.38).

But after two miles of running, it all came down to the final meters as David Spence (9:00.13) narrowly took out the Town Hall Hotel Grampians Handicap 3200m from Matthew McDonough (9:00.14).

With a prize pool of $10,000 and a winner’s cheque of $4,000, the richest distance race of the carnival the Northern Grampians Shire Herb Hedemann Invitation Handicap ended in similar fashion.

An inspiring run by the backmarker Mark Tucker (scratch) saw him hit the front only to be run over by eventuate winner Ben Toomey (55m) in a blanket finish that could have seen any of the first four athletes victors in the esteemed race.

The gruelling 550m metre Stawell Times News WH Earle Handicap had athletes contesting both their heat and final on Easter Sunday.  The extended sprint produced exciting action with the frontmarker Alan Dinsdale being swamped by the rest of the field just 25m from the line.

An impressive run from the backmarker Robert Garland saw him take the deserving victory.

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