2012 Australia’s fastest woman wins at Stawell

Date: 16th March 2022

On an icy cold and wet Easter Monday, Australian national 100m champion Melissa Breen created history when she won the Strickland Family Women’s Gift from the scratch mark.  The Open Gift was won by 20-year-old Ballarat student Matthew Wiltshire.

The 2003 World 100m champion Kim Collins from St Kitts & Nevis was back for his second attempt, along with 4x100m relay Jamaican world record holder Michael Frater, running in a handicapped Gift for the first time.

The Open Gift produced its share of drama. In his semi-final, Commonwealth Games 400m gold medalist John Steffensen broke, but despite incurring the mandatory one metre penalty, he still won in the fastest time of the six semis. 

In the heats Michael Frater ran the fastest time ever from the scratch mark in the Powercor Stawell Gift’s 131-year history in 12.35 seconds. “I think I ran a very good race,” he said. “When you see how far ahead those guys are, I tried to be patient, but the line was coming up pretty quickly.” Kim Collins was less fortunate, missing a semi-final berth despite finishing second in his heat in 12.56 seconds.

Frater narrowly missed a place in the final of the Open Gift in a desperately close photo-finish in semi one with eventual second placegetter Douglas Greenough. He did however take out the Backmarkers Invitation over 120m in 12.30 seconds.

After Steffensen’s false start penalty resulted in the fastest semi time, he was the short-price favourite to win the Open Gift at $1.30. However, fate intervened, with injury thwarting his chances of taking away the $40,000 winner’s cheque. A shattered Steffensen said he felt his hamstring tighten and then cramp during the final and had no choice but to pull up to protect it ahead of the London Olympics.

As a result Matthew Wiltshire, running from a mark of 8m, won by a tenth of a second in 12.22 seconds, fulfilling his family’s dream of winning the iconic 120m footrace. His grandfather John, watching Matthew in 2012, had been in the best form of his life leading into the 1958 Stawell Gift, but pulled his hamstring in the heats.  John said on the day that he left the coaching tips to Matthew’s trainer Peter O’Dwyer who was competing at Stawell for the 25th time.

Douglas Greenough from East Bentleigh was second, with AFL boundary umpire Adam Coote of Elwood third followed by Shaun Hargreaves and Paul Crackroft-Wilson.

Melissa Breen capped off her weekend after winning the $6000 Strickland Family Women’s Gift in 13.95 seconds with another sash for winning the $1000 Fashions on the Field competition.  

Strickland Family Women’s Gift placegetters were Alee Whiteman and Lynette Mattingly. Tara Domaschenz was 4th but her highlight of the day was winning the Lorraine Donnan Women’s 400m in front of Rosamond Gilden and Anna Pasquali.

Brady Threlfall held off the backmarker, Australian Olympian Jeff Riseley running off scratch, to win the Herb Hedemann 1600m.

Shane Buckingham took out the Jack Donaldson 200m/Hank Neil Veterans 100m double and Ian Hinton won both the Arthur Postle 70m and the Bill Howard 100m, but it was the young runners who really caught the eye. 

Fifteen-year-old Tim Delahunty easily won the under 17 boys handicap and went on to run second in the Bill Howard Novice 100m, while in the Little Athletics 800 m event 13-year-old Liam Procaccino won the final from scratch in the slick time of 2.05.88.

Veteran runner Joe Brown who had won over 60 professional races around Victoria including one at Stawell began a family tradition of wins at Stawell which includes sons Chris and Craig, and in 2012 included his daughter Julie Torrini, a 41-year-old mother of four who won the veterans 300m event.

For the full list of 2012 results see here

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