Favourites Stake their Claim for Stawell Titles

Date: 31st March 2018

Defending champion Matt Rizzo recorded the second fastest time in glorious sunshine in today’s heats of the Stawell Athletic Club Stawell Gift making him a favourite for Monday’s final.  If he wins on Monday, Matt will be only the second man in the history of the Stawell Gift to do so.

“I was actually a bit surprised, you always want to go for a quick time on Saturday, so hopefully I can back it up on Monday,” said Rizzo after heat 15.  “I haven’t run since January in the Rye Gift, so to get out there and blow the cobwebs out feels awesome. I was pretty nervous, more pressure coming in this year after the result last year.  It would be sensational to do the double, I look up to Bill Howard who won back to back Stawell Gifts in 1966 and 67, also Josh Ross and Bill Foley have won twice.”

Rizzo has strong competition from Jacob Despard, who set the fastest time of the day with a 12.21. Gary Finegan, another of the favourites for Monday’s crown, was third fastest at 12.301.

“I’m really happy with the quickest time, it gives me confidence and lets everyone know we are here to do the business, said Despard. “I moved to Victoria from Tasmania, I feel like the move has really helped me, I was it a bit too relaxed.  I moved over with Jack Hale for better competition. I’ll be here to support the guys in the squad tomorrow then Sunday night the prep begins for Monday. I’m happy to be in the final.”

US hurdler Devon Allen enjoyed his second time running on grass after competing at Devonport last December and lapped up the atmosphere at Stawell today.  His win in heat 4 with a time of 12.473 ensures him a place in the semi-finals on Monday.  “I’m really looking forward to Monday, this is unique, and I like the atmosphere.  I love running on grass.”

In the Australia Post Women’s Gift, Kiara Reddingius clocked the quickest time of the day with 14.067, followed by Anna Pasquali with 14.083, Pam Austin with 14.091 and Tara Domaschenz at 14.116.

Tara Domaschenz, the heat 1 winner was pleased with her result and those of the other top runners in the Australia Post Women’s Gift heats today. “It was pretty exciting to hear I had the third fastest time today. It’s good to see that the times of the best 10 – 15 runners were so close.  It will be an exciting final on Monday,” said Tara.

Cara Boustead, daughter of rugby league star Ian Boustead and niece of Kerry Boustead won heat 11.  “I’m so stoked with how quickly I ran.  I’m from Innisfail, North Queensland, this is my 7th year at Stawell and it’s amazing. I’m looking forward to Monday,” said Cara. 

Pam Austin said: “I returned to athletics this season after a four-year break with the aim of being competitive in women’s gifts.  Winning the 100m Women’s gift at Daylesford earlier this year has given Pam the confidence to come to Stawell where she made the final in 2010 and 2013.” 

In the longer distance races today, four champions were crowned. Eric Sapac took out the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame Backmarkers 1600m in a time of 3.58.365.  The 2018 Official Supporters Club Stawell Frontmarkers’ Handicap 1600m Final was won by Sean Quilty in 4.3.505.  The Crowe Horwath Women’s Handicap 800m Final winner was Ruby Crisp in 2.3.576 and the winner of the Telstra Store Craigieburn Little Athletics Handicap 800m Final was Brandon Smith.

Easter Sunday at the 2018 Stawell Gift Carnival is Cadbury Family day with plenty of off track action including the incredible Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt in the Central Park Rose Garden. On the track, the finals of the Telstra Store Ararat 70m Women’s Handicap and the Gift Hotel Arthur Postle 70m Handicap headline the straight track action, while the circle track features finals of the Telstra Store Plenty Valley Little Athletics Handicap 1600m and the Past Runners Association Men’s and Women’s and Masters 1600m Handicap among a jam-packed on-track schedule.

RESULTS >> Full results for Day 1 of the Stawell Gift Carnival are here.


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