Runners gear up for Gift

By David Schout

Organisers and athletes alike are putting their final preparations in for the inaugural Docklands Gift on Saturday, March 20 at Ron Barassi Snr Park.

The first-time event at Ron Barassi Snr Park — delivered in partnership with the Victorian Athletics League (VAL), Docklands Primary School and the Docklands Sports Club — is set to feature a range of fun and competitive events for the local community.

One of the event’s organisers, Robbie Spencer, said he hoped the atmosphere on the day would replicate those at famous regional events.

“We don’t have an inner-city Gift. It’s hard to try and get kids, especially in high-density areas, to know what the Stawell Gift and these sort of races are about,” he said.

“They’re so unique in their own right. I remember the first time I went to Stawell, I was just a kid and thought ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I love it. People are winning money, people are racing off different handicaps, boys are competing against men, men are competing against women, what’s going on here?’”

Mr Spencer, a national junior sprint champion and now coach, said when he was keen to get involved when he first heard the Docklands Gift may go ahead.

“I couldn’t see it not happening — it’s too good an opportunity, it’s too good a ground, it’s too good of a venue and having the city as a backdrop is just amazing.”

Aside from the picturesque backdrop, Spencer said the venue itself was ideal for a grass-surface athletics event.

“The surface is great. I walked on it recently after a big downpour and you wouldn’t have even known it had rained. So even if it does rain the night before or even on the day, we know it won’t be an issue.”

The newly-opened Docklands Primary School is set to play a role on the day, and students have been encouraged to enter the events.

From 9am on the day, individual year-level races will be held (prep to grade six), and the winners will progress to the Docklands Primary School Gift.

In this final race, year-level winners will run off different handicaps (for example: grade six students from the back markers, preps at the front) to win the inaugural sash.

Spencer said that Australia’s 1500m record holder Stewart McSweyn is also due to speak with students at the school in the lead-up to the event.

Gifts, prize money and handicaps

The term “gift” is a historical one.

In the late 1800s, prominent gold mining towns would host race carnivals and grant winners a gold nugget “gift”, usually supplied by a mine owner or local publican.

While the winners of the Women’s and Open race on March 20 won’t be lugging home their own gold nugget, they each will however walk away with $1500 in prize money.

In fact, most of the main races throughout the day will grant prize money between $300 and $1500 to the winners.

The Docklands Gift will employ handicapping for the different races throughout the day, whereby competitors are “handicapped” according to their recent form.

Stronger runners are usually assigned a shorter handicap (that is, closer to the starting marker), while less strong runners are given a more generous handicap (or “head start”).

This process, in theory, “levels out” the competition and would see winners perform the best against previous form.

The handicap process is administered by the VA •

Docklands Gift, March 20: Key times

11:58am: Docklands Primary School Gift (Final)

1:28pm: 70m Open (Final)

2:36pm: 800m Open (Final)

2:46pm: 800m Women’s (Final)

2:56pm: 100m Under 18 Boys (Final)

3:06pm: 100m Under 18 Girls (Final)

3:16pm: 100m Masters (Final)

4:49pm: Frontmarkers Mile (Final)

4:59pm: Backmarkers Mile (Final)

5:09pm: 300m Masters (Final)

5:17pm: 400m Womens (Final)

5:25pm: 400m Open (Final)

5:33pm: 100m Women’s Gift (Final)

5:43pm: 100m Docklands (Open) Gift (Final)

Favourites/athletes to watch

Open Gift: Jason Bailey, Kevin Brittain, Nicholas Antonino, Harrison Kerr, Jack Boulton.

Women’s Gift: Tayley Perry, Hannah Lindstrom, Karlee Bailey, Zoe Neale.

Open 400: Dominic Hoskins, Daniel Quattrone, Darcy Ireland.

Women’s 400: Meg Deane, Alex Tzilantonis, Kim McDonough, Jess Payne.

800m Open: Tom Hecimovic, Neil Brennan, Lonain Burnett, Ryan Antidormi, Marcus Overman.

1600 Open: Joel Donnar, Julian Harris, Marcus Overman, Nathan Crowley, Justin Murphy, Michael Preece.

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