Ross back for gift

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport -

Dual Stawell Gift win­ner Josh Ross will run off 1.5-me­tres in the fa­mous footrace as he re­turns from a 10-year ab­sence from com­pet­i­tive ath­let­ics.

The mark has taken Ross, who ex­pected to be off scratch con­sid­er­ing his pre­vi­ous suc­cess at the event, by sur­prise.

“I’m ex­tremely happy with my hand­i­cap. I’m a lit­tle shocked be­cause I ex­pected scratch,” he said.

“I al­ways en­joy the chal­lenge of run­ning off the mark of hon­our, how­ever 1.5m is still go­ing to be a big chal­lenge, but I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Ross is try­ing to cre­ate his­tory by be­ing the first at the Stawell Easter week­end car­ni­val to win the open gift three times.

Vic­to­rian Ath­letic League an­nounced hand­i­caps for all ath­letes com­pet­ing in the car­ni­val at Cen­tral Park from Satur­day un­til Mon­day.

League sec­re­tary Tom Bur­bridge said rac­ing was wide open this year.

“Of course you never know with the Stawell Gift, it is all part of the an­tic­i­pa­tion around this iconic grand fi­nal of our pro­fes­sional league,” he said.

“We have tried to make the in­di­vid­ual gifts more com­pet­i­tive dur­ing the past two sea­sons and as a re­sult we’ve seen more ath­letes from in­ter­state at­tend more of the smaller meet­ings through­out the sea­son.

“But the Stawell Gift is the pin­na­cle event with some 20 heats in the open gift alone.”

Also off the 1.5m mark is 21-year-old Mel­bourne sprinter Michael Ro­manin who out­ran a class field to claim first prize in the Mary­bor­ough Gift in Jan­uary.

Ro­manin also won last year’s Bendigo Gift and was fifth in the 2017 Stawell Gift.

Last year’s open gift win­ner Matt Rizzo re­ceived 4.5 me­tres, a mark he ex­pected and ‘ex­actly what we wanted’.

“My coach Matt Carter and I be­lieve I can be com­pet­i­tive off that mark,” he said.

“How­ever, it’s never a guar­an­tee. There is a hand­ful of qual­ity ath­letes be­hind me and in front of me, so this year will be su­per com­pet­i­tive.”

Last year’s women’s gift win­ner Liv Ryan will also run off 4.5 me­tres.

For­mer open gift win­ner Mur­ray Good­win, miss­ing from Stawell ac­tion this year be­cause of Com­mon­wealth Games com­mit­ments, said he ex­pected a tighter con­test than last year.

“Rizzo can in­deed be com­pet­i­tive again, but ob­vi­ously now runs off a sig­nif­i­cantly tighter mark. He’s shown through­out the year he can con­tinue to im­prove and is rel­ish­ing the back­marker po­si­tions,” he said.

“I ex­pect him to fi­nal and if he gets his trade­mark start will make things very in­ter­est­ing. He’ll be try­ing to run down Gary Fine­gan, 5.25, who is highly ex­pe­ri­enced and has the right mark now to be my num­ber-one se­lec­tion.

“The other I have on my podium is Ja­cob Des­pard, 4.5. He comes from the su­per crop of Aus­tralian ju­niors and will have taken a lot from a sea­son of mix­ing it with Aus­tralia’s top sprint­ers. The whole of Tassie will be cheer­ing him on.

“Oth­ers in my fi­nal in­clude Dale Woodams, 8, Kevin Brit­tain, 9, and one I’ve al­ways had time for, Daniel Son­sini, 7.25. “It should be a fan­tas­tic race.” Lau­ren Wells, 400m cham­pion and also with Com­mon­wealth com­mit­ments, said she would also keep a close eye on re­sults from Queens­land.

“In the women’s gift I think Sophia Fighera, 5.25, as well ath­letes in­clud­ing Tara Do­maschenz, 5, and Holly Dob­byn, 3, will be the ones to watch,” she said.

Three days of ac­tion-packed rac­ing, ac­tiv­i­ties and en­ter­tain­ment make up the 2018 Stawell Gift Car­ni­val.

Fash­ions on the field head­lines off­track ac­tion, which takes cen­tre stage on Easter Satur­day with $2500 in prize money and gifts up for grabs. Easter Sun­day is fam­ily day at Stawell with an Easter egg hunt head­lin­ing a sched­ule of child-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing an ath­let­ics clinic, an an­i­mal nurs­ery among other ac­tiv­i­ties.

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