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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Wangaratta Wrap

Wangaratta Wrap

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1 Wangaratta Wrap on Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:07 pm


On Saturday the 22nd of January 2011 the VAL turned its attention to the traditional
and longstanding Wangaratta Gift. The Wangaratta Sports Club led by it’s president
and VAL stalwart Greg O’Keeffe introduced a number of measures to help improve
the event. The most notable was the changing of the position of the Gift track so it
would run the opposite direction to previous years and its finish line would be nearer
the circle finish enabling the majority of spectators to be in position for all circle,
straight sprint and cycling finishes. The weather was kind providing a sunny and hot
day for all attending making the 90th Wangaratta Gift a great day for all attending.
The day commenced with the dulcet tones of George Underwood calling the card and
the following races. It brought a taste of nostalgia with George’s voice ringing
through the loudspeaker chiming into plenty of sponsor’s adverts between races and
ensuring that race results and times were clearly announced after each race.
Wangaratta attracted many of the usual characters to its field including many traveling
from interstate. Most notable was the attendance of many of Matt “Beckingham”
Beckenham’s stable and also a small contingent from the stable of Brian Wright.
Many of these athletes were extremely competitive with many making finals and
some stealing the chocolates to take home interstate.

A good field of runners lined up for the 70m but the only regular VAL runners to
make the final were Adam Parkes, George Saouma, and Chris Hargreaves.
Unfortunately for them they were no match for the runners from interstate who took
out the top 3 positions. Less than 1 metre separated the field as the crossed the finish
line. The Matt Beckenham trained Derek Collinge ran impressively to win (7.73 off
5.50m) to hold off training partner Brendan Matthews and Lavington runner Jarrod
Lindner who took 3rd position.

120m Womens/Veterans
Some of the best performing veterans stepped out for this, which is a race that is
nearly always hard to pick the winner before the event starts. The Todd Ireland
trained George Saouma continued his good form on the day making this final with his
training partner Brendan Boyle who showed a glimpse of what was to come later in
the day. Both of these ran very well in the final with both taking 2nd and 3rd
respectively. But the run of the day in this event belonged to the dashing beauty
Sheena Steinert who snatched her 2nd win (13.26 off 12.25m) in two weeks showing
that she is returning to some wonderful form after many a season interrupted with

120m Novice
A quality field of runners assembled for this with all hoping to break their duck and
get their first win. The Brian Wright trained Brent Lewis was the victor (12.61 off
7m) holding off gallant runs from Travis Pike and Mitchell Palmer for 2nd and 3rd

A strong field of well performed runners were fortunate enough to make the final. It
was the ever reliable and consistent Justin Murphy who showed the most initiative
and took the race on with 250m to run. This move took him to yet another win
(1.53.1 off 32m) His strength and desire to win was too great for the rest of the field.
Peter Spence ran well for 2nd with the ever reliable Mark Andrews running on well to
take 3rd just edging out Aaron Downes and Mark Hipworth from a placing.

300m Veterans
Many of the vets turned out for what has become one of the most interesting races on
the VAL circuit. For some that use it as their giggle and kick race it continued to be
just that, but for others it was an outstanding spectacle with another extremely close
finish. Justin Murphy showed his class backing up after winning the 800m to snare
victory coming from the back in the last few metres (36.15 off 11m). Mohommed
Reese and Les Williams weren’t far behind where they finished 2nd and 3rd

400m Womens
Sheena Steinert was ultra impressive in this final. She took off hard catching the front
of the field with 180m to run. Laura Jane Hilditch responded when Steinert caught
here and chased her all the way to the finish line but Steinert was still too strong
(53.64 off 16m) and both Steinert and Hilditch had both spaced the field with daylight
coming third (Actually it was Celia Cosgriff who came 3rd). This was Steinert’s 3rd
win in two weeks and it marked the return off a powerhouse in the female running

A quality field was strong enough to make there way into this much sought after final.
The race proved to be extremely close but it was the novice runner from New South
Wales, Mitchell Palmer that proved too good (47.69 off 28m) in the final few strides
to just edge out Glenn Cooper and James Collier who came 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Only 2m covered the top 6 places in what was a thrilling final running event for the

A quality field assembled for what is regarded as one of the most sought after 3200m
races on the VAL calendar. Many runners that do not normally like to even venture
further than 800m turned out for this one and many found out half way through why
they don’t like to venture so far. A strong pace was set from the gun with many
runners forming groups at the back and the middle to help tow them toward the front
markers. From the back group Daniel Hornery and Josh Nolan looked the most
dangerous until they hit the wall with about 300m to run and it was the impressive
Brady Threlfall who made a late run to just get over them. Unfortunately there efforts
were in vain because a decisive move from the very fit Robert Haala was made with
about 600m to run and he never looked to be beaten with 350m to run. He went to the
line extremely strong to win impressively (9.03.75 off 260m).

120m Gift
A quality field entered and ran in this with many who hadn’t really featured this year
finding their best form of the season. The yard stick for the day was set early with the
Canberra based Brendan Cole running a scorching heat (12.32 off 5.25m). The semi
finals were strongly contested aswell. In Semi Final 1 Todd Ireland proved too good
by improving on his heat run and taking out the win to advance to the final. A great
run by Brendan Matthews snatched the other automatic spot for the final just ahead of
the unlucky Wangaratta local Clayton Fraser. Semi Final 2 looked to be a forgone
conclusion with Brendan Cole having significant time up from the heats, but it was
the ever consistent Cam Dunbar who rose to the occasion to just hold off Cole with
both automatically qualifying for the final. Gavin O’Neil was an unlucky 3rd in that
semi final. Semi Final 3 produced a few surprises with the two outmarkers Katie
Moore and Brendan Boyle crossing the line in the first two positions respectively to
just outpoint the fast finishing but unlucky Matt Callard for third.
This set up a tantalising final with Cole still having the fastest time of the day from
the heats lining up in white. His training partner Brendan Matthews was starting just
behind him in the red. Then the Todd Ireland Track Squad (TITS) took the next three
colours Dunbar in Blue, Ireland in Yellow, and Boyle in Green. Dunbar had knocked
off Cole in the semi and Ireland had just out pointed Matthews in his semi. The
outmarker in pink was Katie Moore, the first ever female to make the Gift final at
Wangaratta and she had out pointed Boyle in the 3rd semi.
When the gun went all got away clearly with Moore maybe having a slight stumble.
Half way down it looked as though the back were going to still having trouble
catching the three outer colours. Dunbar seemed the first to loom on Ireland who is
always difficult to pass once the runners are up into velocity. Cole seemed to be
getting contact on Dunbar with Brendan Matthews still chasing hard from the back.
Only 1m separated the top 5 placings in the final with Todd Ireland showing his experience to hold off a fast finishing Cole and Dunbar who were 2nd and 3rd
respectively. Matthews finished 4th, Boyle 5th and Moore 6th. Ireland won his first
ever Wangaratta Gift (12.47 off 13m) after an impeccable career at this carnival
where he had made this final on about 7 previous occasions.

St Albans Gift - Saturday 29th January 2011

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