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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Graham Cornes is a big fan of the Bay Sheffield

Graham Cornes is a big fan of the Bay Sheffield

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Graham Cornes: Bay Sheffield is an enthralling, captivating South Australian event, steeped in history, tradition and ritual

By Graham Cornes,
The Advertiser
December 22, 2017

NO sporting event encapsulates the history of our state more than the Bay Sheffield carnival.

Held continuously since 1887, the event this year will be held for the first time over three days with 911 competitors.

It’s a record and kicks off with a twilight program on Boxing Day. Significantly, no event celebrates the diversity of our state more than the Bay Sheff. The winner can come from anywhere. There is a huge contingent of interstate competitors.

As the president of the South Australian Athletic League, Brendan Golden, said on Friday:

“There are the pure back markers who are looking to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games, dangerous middle markers who have loads of ability, beach sprinters who do well into the headwind at the Bay, the interstate smokies, footballers, converts from other sports, the big power runners, the lean whippet runners, the battlers off the front (who can’t really be called battlers anymore), the veterans who can still move, the raw youngsters … only one of them is getting the sash. No other sport or event throws up that kind of jigsaw.”

It is an enthralling, captivating event, steeped in history, tradition and ritual. And yes — skulduggery; although those days are long gone.
The only dead heat in the race happened exactly 100 years ago when the judges couldn’t separate A.W. Hammond and G.L. (Len) Arnold. Jack “Snowy” Hamilton, a brilliant state footballer of the day, easily won his semi-final but did not compete in the final. Rumour had it that his father had backed him to win a considerable amount without knowing that “Snowy” had made other “arrangements”. No such shenanigans exist these days.

The winner’s purse in 1917 was seven pounds ($14). This year, the winner will receive $13,500. Significantly, the winner of the women’s race will receive exactly the same amount. It’s the women’s race that also attracts a huge number of interstate competitors.

Last years’ winner, Jessica Payne from Victoria, will be back to defend her title, but South Australia’s two best chances are Czenya Cavouras, a medical student, and Kayla Lemm.

Of great interest to Crows fans will be Rose Pittman who is fast becoming the best 800m runner in the country. The daughter of Crows premiership star, David Pittman, she recently won the U16 400 and 800 metre events at the all-schools nationals in times that would have made the women’s finals at the Australian Athletics Championships.

Bay Sheffield 1947 winner Riley Wing, with sprint coach Ern Holder, will be inducted into the Bay Sheffield Hall of Fame.

Backmarker and 2012 winner Josh Ross will return to Colley Reserve for the Bay Sheffield in his last season.

The favourite to win the men’s race is 18 year old Harrison Hunt, an ex-BMX racer who has only been running for two years and gets a 6.5 metre start over the back marker, Josh Ross.

Ross, the most successful athlete in the history of Australia pro running, is back for his last season. He won the Stawell Gift twice, in 2003 and in 2005 off scratch, which had only been done once before. He won the Bay Sheff in 2012, the only runner in the history of the event to win it off scratch. His talent was recognised when he was inducted into the Bay Sheffield Hall of Fame in 2015.

There will be another induction into the Hall of Fame next week. “Riley” Wing, of Chinese descent from Darwin who won the event in 1947 will be so honoured. He is now 91 and a symbol of all that is good about the sport and this unique event.

The Bay Sheff, held over three days, starts at 4.30pm on Boxing Day. It’s a free event held in beautiful Colley Reserve.
But take the tram — it’s crazy at Glenelg at this time of year.

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