South Australian Athletes Set Sights on Stawell Gift Glory

Date: 29th March 2024

On the eve of the Powercor Stawell Gift weekend, welcome to all the athletes from South Australia making their way across the border to Central Park.

Among them are serial Gift finalist Hayden Petherick and Bay Sheffield winner Joseph McKinnon from the Impact Athletics squad.

Hayden Petherick, a seasoned competitor, is embarking on his 9th trip to Stawell, maintaining a tradition that began in 2015. Joining him on the journey are his training partner, Joseph McKinnon, and fellow athlete, Taylah Parker. Departing from Adelaide early this morning, Hayden is fuelled by excitement for the challenge that lies ahead.

“This season has definitely been a bit of a breakthrough for me, I’ve raced 11 times through at VAL and SAAL Gifts this season, made each final and placed in all but one of them when I came 4th in the Ringwood Gift final last weekend. The consistency I’ve shown this year has really shown me that hard work really does pay off, and a bigger win is only around the corner.“

Reflecting on the significance of the Stawell Gift, Hayden expresses his admiration for the event. “Winning any event at Stawell would be a dream come true,” he shares. “The Stawell Gift is the pinnacle of pro running in Australia, and it would be an amazing feeling.”

This season has been a breakthrough for Hayden, with impressive performances across various races. His consistency and hard work have positioned him as a formidable contender, leaving him eager to tackle the competition in the Stawell Family Central Park Frontmarkers’ Handicap 400m.

The refigeration mechanic from Seaview Downs, when he’s not training or working says “you can find me drinking a good coffee, doing some recovery in the plunge pools or doing a session in the sauna.”

Joseph McKinnon, no stranger to the allure of Stawell, is preparing for his second appearance at Stawell. Joseph is looking forward to immersing himself in the excitement and history of the Gift.

“It was a great meet last year so I’m definitely looking forward to running there this year again. The atmosphere is amazing, and the Gift is such a prestigious event, so winning and being part of its history would be incredible,” Joe told us.

Reflecting on his recent victory at the esteemed Bay Sheffield Gift, Joseph describes the experience as unforgettable. “To win in front of my friends and family was amazing,” he recalls. “It is such an iconic event that I never really imagined myself winning. To hear the crowd cheer across Colley Reserve was amazing. It will be very hard to top that win.”

Also under the guidance of coach Debbie Meich as part of the Impact Squad, Joseph trains at the SA Athletics Stadium, and are ready for the upcoming challenge. With tailored sessions to suit his beach running, Joseph is primed to deliver his best performance yet at Stawell. “It is a great squad and Deb is an amazing coach.”

Joseph lives in beachside Marino and is currently studying for a degree in maths and computer science and interning as a data analyst at Neumann Space. “Outside of that I just like hanging out with my mates.”

Hayley Orman, the 2021 champion of the Change Our Game Women’s Gift who recently celebrated her wedding to partner Tim, brings a wealth of experience and passion to the Stawell arena. While she won’t be competing this year, Hayley remains fully invested in the event, coming this year to support her coach and friend and teammate Olivia Hastings, a finalist from 2023.

Reflecting on her past victory, Hayley expresses profound gratitude for her achievements at Stawell. “Winning at Stawell still holds such a special place to me,” she shares. “There is also such a humbling feeling seeing the new winners being crowned.”

Good luck to all the athletes from South Australia.

Main photo: Joseph wins the Bay Sheffield, image by Neil Jameson

Below: Hayden in the 550m at Bay Sheffield, image by Jenny Poole

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