Grace is hoping to make history for the POD Squad

Date: 1st April 2023

Grace O’Dwyer and her three teammates at the POD squad are running so well this season, all of them could be in the mix for the Change Our Game Womens Gift final come Easter Monday.

The 2015 Women’s Gift winner is hoping to use her form and experience to be only the second woman to win twice since Sue Carr in 1991 and ’95, and the first to win twice since the prize money was made equal to the Mens Gift.

I’m very grateful that we have four girls in form and running well – Tiana (Shillito), Chloe (Kinnesly) and Halle (Martin) and training has been both enjoyable and competitive. This along with the support of each other and a structured progressive training program means we have all enjoyed a successful season,” said Grace.

Grace was 15 years old when she won the Women’s Gift, her first time in the Open race. She has competed every year since. She is 23 now and has been given a handicap of 7m. Her winning mark in 2015 was 10.25m.

“I have competed in the Little Athletics and junior races since I was 7 years old. And I have known nothing else at Easter, having never missed it, as this is our family tradition.” 

It’s an O’Dwyer family tradition because dad Peter is THE Peter O’Dwyer of the renowned Ballarat based POD squad where Grace, Tiana, Chloe and Halle train.

Training is going to plan. I have been lucky to have had uninterrupted training preparation this season, but the biggest challenge is fitting it around my busy work schedule. The POD squad has a 6-week peak preparation training program for Stawell, which includes our taper; this has worked perfectly for me this year after winning the Keilor Gift.

 The Women’s Gift has been won twice before but it would be a privilege and dream to be the first since prize money parity to win again.

I have been happy with my progression and improvement this season, and I had a proper uninterrupted winter program which set me up for a successful season.

Grace is grateful to have the guidance of her coach father and other squad trainers and says “Dad’s advice is immeasurable. We have a very structured and strategically planned training program and I have clarity on what I have to do and execute.

“It is always comforting and reassuring to know that I have over 40 years of sprinting knowledge and evidenced-based coaching experience and knowledge in my corner. We are also fortunate to have other fantastic coaches and mentors in our squad, Dan Martin, Tony Martin and Scott Shillito, and I’m very grateful for their support.

Peter O’Dwyer was inducted into the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame in 2021 after a distinguished pro running career and since then having coached numerous national and state champions as well as four Stawell Gift winners, three of those in consecutive years.

“Dad is also teaching me to coach, and I have enjoyed beginning to help out and mentor the younger members of our squad.

“The profile of our squad below sums up what the POD Squad is about nicely!”

POD believes that nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to a caring nurturing Squad, it transforms the personal quest into a shared one and forms an environment that celebrates and enjoys each other’s successes no matter how big or small. The essence of friendships and belonging to a community positively assist with behaviours and habits that last over the long run.

Looking to the future, Grace plans on having another structured winter program and just see how fast I can run.”

 She works as a physiotherapist at Ballarat Lake Health Group. Outside of work and training/competing she enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the beach and reading.

With thanks to Sandy Cook for the photo of the POD Squad.


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