Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 20th March 2021
With Australian middle and long distance runners currently in the spotlight, we meet the three young athletes who took out the Maribyrnong 1600m this season and who are all sons of past Stawell winning pro runners.
Finn Russell, Geordie Hore and Marcus Overman would probably not be running if it weren’t for the passion and guidance passed on from their fathers – Andrew Russell, Steve Hore and Tony Overman.
The Maribyrnong 1,2 & 3 are well placed for a spot in this year’s Herb Hedemann Invitation 1600m – a highlight at Stawell named after the legendary distance runner who won the Federation Mile and Grampian Stakes on the same day in both 1912 and 1913.
Geordie’s father Steve Hore won the Herb Hedemann in 1996 and was runner up the following year, and Finn’s father Andrew Russell was twice a runner up in “the Herb”. Tony Overman, a super tough competitor during his time in pro running and trained by Sandy Hurst, won the Open 800m at Stawell in 1986.
16-year-old Finn Russell is hoping to be accepted into the renowned race at Easter. “The Herb always has such a high-quality field of elite athletes, so I am unsure of my chances, but either way I know it will be a great race to be a part of,” said Finn.
Finn’s father Andrew Russell has been a big influence on his son. “Dad was pretty good back in his day. As well as twice being runner up in the Herb Hedemann he won the mile at Burnie and the Bay Sheffield. He also ran 8:03 for 3k.”
Andrew Russell went from competing to a career in AFL and has been the Director of High Performance at Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and since 2019, Carlton Football Club. He continued in athletics coaching. “Over the last ten years he has coached a group of middle-distance runners, including three time Olympian and 1000m Australian record holder Jeff Riseley, so it’s obviously amazing to have him at home and help me out all the time.”
“I train mostly with Hippo’s group, and especially do a lot of my training with the
Herb Hedemann winner from 2019, Riley Bryce.” Finn
Andrew still shares the coaching of his son with Stawell Gift legend Mark (Hippo) Hipworth – who coincidentally also coached Andrew – and Finn’s school athletics coach Craig Mottram at Haileybury. “I train mostly with Hippo’s group, and especially do a lot of my training with the Herb Hedemann winner from 2019, Riley Bryce. We do most of our track sessions at Olympic Park and Riley and I work really well together to get the best out of each other.”
“The Stawell gift is extremely special as it holds so much history and prestige. It especially means a lot to me as not only Dad has competed here in the past but also Hippo, who also coached Dad. The people year after year make it such a special event and one that is always amazing to be a part of. Winning at Stawell is about as good as it gets for any runner.”
Geordie Hore has just turned 20 and was the runner up to Finn at Maribyrnong. The son of Steve Hore and Emma Yeomans says he initially approached the race as “just an opportunity to get back into racing as it was one of my first races of the season. I just was aiming to stay relaxed the whole way but after the first lap I realised I had a good chance. I knew Finn Russell was sitting on me but thought I could out-kick him, but clearly didn’t.”
Geordie’s father Steve Hore not only won the Herb Hedemann in 1996 and came 2ndthe following year, he also won the Backmarkers 3200m in 1992 and 1997. “Back then there were so many runners they split the 3200m into Frontmarkers and Backmarkers divisions.
“My Dad has been a great influence with my running. Both my parents have,” said Geordie.
“They met through athletics which meant they fully support my running and my goals. Mum was a sprinter (Emma has made the Women’s Gift final and the 400m on a couple of occasions) which certainly has helped give me some speed with my racing. Dad often brings up his wins at Stawell as some of his best achievements, but he doesn’t go into huge detail about his racing unless we ask about it. He focuses more on me and my brother’s sporting achievements as well as the other athletes he coaches.”
Steve is Managing Director of the Australian Fitness Academy, an RTO that trains people to become fitness trainers and personal trainers. Australian Fitness Academy sponsored the Women’s 800m at Parkdale. He is also a coach for sprinters, mid-distance and distance runners at Mentone Athletics Club where Geordie trains and competes.
“It is hard to tell how I will go as Stawell attracts so many athletes I have not raced against this season,
but I will say I am in very good shape.” Geordie
Geordie has entered the 800m and the 1600m events at Stawell and believes he should do well this year. “It is hard to tell how I will go as Stawell attracts so many athletes I have not raced against this season, but I will say I am in very good shape.”
Not surprisingly, the three-time Waverley 800m winner has been going to Stawell since he was a baby.
“The Stawell Gift has always been a special weekend. As long as I can remember I have been going up to Stawell over Easter to watch the racing and recently have been lucky enough to compete. According to my parents I have only missed going to Stawell twice (three times if we include covid last year) in my entire life. I don’t really know how to describe the event but there is some sort of energy that just makes you want to run fast. It could be that I have been lucky enough to grow up knowing the prestige that comes with winning at Stawell, but it would be an amazing achievement to win there.”
“We’re really looking forward to Stawell again this year. It’s a weekend that we have been involved with for years. It’s a brilliant atmosphere – great running, very social and we catch up with lots of old friends,” said Steve.
Stawell first-timer Marcus Overman has registered for both the Restricted and Open 1600m and the Open 800m. Third at Maribyrnong, Marcus will take that experience with him to Central Park at Easter.
“I was moving comfortably during the first lap, trying to find a steady pace until Geordie and Finn came around and started setting a good standard to catch the front markers and I tried to latch onto them as best I could as they kept passing more runners. They really cranked it up in the last lap, with Finn having a good kick over the last 300m to pull out the win. The legs were burning coming into that last straight. I wasn’t able to get Geordie on the line but was stoked to come in third.
“I haven’t run at Stawell before and I know there will be a high standard set there, so I’ve just got to trust my training and give it my all in the races. I am honestly just really looking forward to being a part of the event and atmosphere of Stawell, especially due to the circumstances of last year and it’s unfortunate cancellation.”
Tony Overman, who was coached by the legendary Sandy Hurst and later Mark Hipworth, most certainly has influenced Marcus’ running success.
“We always used to ask dad about his runs (and even when we weren’t, he’d be telling us stories anyway) during his pro career. We could never quite work out the handicap system as kids.
“The memories that he and Mum have of travelling around Victoria to run in races was a pretty special time in their lives. He even managed to drag some of his more football-oriented brothers along to some meets, which they seemed to enjoy, or endure.
“Obviously, Stawell was a massive occasion for him during his pro career and winning the open 800 in 1986 was a great moment to be cherished. We have a photo out in the shed of him and some other blokes falling over at the line, and I have heard a lot about it, but I’ve never seen the footage of that run. If anyone has got a copy laying around, I’d love to have a look at it to see what all the fuss has been about.”
“I think Watto has bad memories of Dad always finding a kick to get around him in those races.” Marcus
Marcus, who will be 24 the week after Stawell, now trains at Landy Field in Geelong with Graeme Watkins (Watto) and the Watkins squad. “Dad used to run against Watto during his pro career, and that’s how I started training. I think Watto has bad memories of Dad always finding a kick to get around him in those races.
“There are many talented and dedicated runners in the Watkins squad, with Watto helping all of us reach our potential. We have a great team mentality and bond at Landy for what you might see as an individual sport, but we all see the greater picture of pushing each other and finding the joy in running collectively.
“Tony got into the marathons over the last 15 years, becoming a Spartan for the Melbourne marathon, which encouraged my older brother Oli to run one as well when he was 19.
“Running has been a big part of our family, and whilst living in Moriac, Tones has got us out trail running down in the Anglesea Heath and Otway’s, which have some great tracks.
“When he’s not running or telling stories, he’s trying to cultivate sustainability habits and networks within the region, specifically focused on water and irrigation.
“Stawell’s the pinnacle of the VAL. From everyone that speaks about it, from Tones, my extended family, my training squad and fellow runners, it’s an incredible experience that you’ll never forget. It’s pretty awesome to see a bunch of runners coming to the peak of their training and then performing under the pressure of the moment and other runners. People want to test themselves and win or lose, to have Stawell as a location that culminates that energy and excitement; that’s something special to be a part of. I can’t wait.”
You can watch the video of the 2021 Maribyrnong Gift 1600m here: https://youtu.be/CO13R3hZ9GM
Main photo by Neil Jameson of Jamesons Photography
Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Comments are closed.