Date: 20th March 2014

Australia’s fastest female sprinter Melissa Breen will challenge the men when she lines up in the Australia Post Stawell Gift this Easter.

Breen, 23, broke Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s 20-year-old national 100m record when she ran 11.11 seconds in her heat at the ACT Championships in February.

If Breen makes it through the heats, it will be the first time in the 133-year history of the event that a woman will run in the semi-finals of Australia’s richest short distance footrace.

“I love coming to Stawell and this year I am keen to challenge myself against the men,” Breen said.

“Running the Australian record gives me great confidence to try and do something no female has ever done and that’s make the semi’s.”

In 2012 Breen was the first woman to ever win the State of Victoria Strickland Family Women’s Gift off scratch. Off the track she also took home the 2012 Driscoll McIllree & Dickinson Fashions on the Field.

“Ever since I first ventured down to Stawell in 2009, I have been in love with it.  It is really the only sprinting event shown live on TV and it boasts so many different aspects that ensure huge excitement for the athlete and spectator,” Breen said.

“The mystery and secrecy about who is primed and ready to win and then watching it unfold over the four days is fascinating. There is so much more to the Stawell Gift than the racing too. I love being involved in the Fashions on the Field and kids clinic.”

More than 1650 athletes have registered to compete in the 2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift, an increase of 100 entries versus last year.

Stawell Athletic Club President Jeremy Irvine said the increase in registered athletes illustrated the event was continuing to grow in popularity and remained integral to athletics in Australia.

“The Australia Post Stawell Gift finishes off a strong Gift season across Australia, and we are thrilled to be hosting so many fantastic athletics over the Easter carnival,” Mr Irvine said.

Minister for Sport and Recreation, Damian Drum, said he was excited about the Easter long weekend event.

“Having the rising star of the Australian athletics scene is a great boost for Australia’s most famous footrace, and the added bonus of it being a woman challenging the men will create huge interest,” Minister Drum said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government committed to supporting and growing the Stawell Gift in 2010, $600,000 has since been contributed to the event and we have seen it prosper ever since.”

“Not only will this event again create significant economic impact for a regional city in Stawell but via the inclusion of Melissa Breen it will inspire many young Victorian girls to get involved in sport and take on the boys.“

Melissa Breen will also be a special judge for the 2014 Driscoll McIllree & Dickson Fashions on the Field competition, and on-site for photographs and autographs at a clinic on Family Day.

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