Stawell Gift marks

Youngy, any profootballer this year ( AFL or NRL)?

No footballers of any note. Though, quite a few of the blokes entered probably play football (mainly Aussie rules) during the winter for local metropolitan & country clubs.

18 year old Tom Gamble is one out of left field, having not run in the Victorian Athletic League before. He has run some good amateur times recently earning a place on the world junior team (4 x 100m relay) to compete in Canada in July.

Earlier this year, Gamble won a 90m race at Coomera off the luxury mark of 9.50m in 9.18s. It was only his second pro race. He also ran 3rd in the Kilcoy Gift (Queensland) off 8.0m, running 12.17. The winner was Nick Boylett who for a national standard sprinter (PB’s of sub 21s for 200m & 46.5 for 400m) had an incredible mark of 8.50m and duly romped home by 3m in a time of 11.81. (The handicapping in Queensland is not as streamlined and performed with the same sophistication and analysis as the southern states. There’s a bit of the old ‘wild west’ about how it’s done up there.)

Gamble’s a tall lad who appears suited to the 200m, meaning the 120m distance on the Central Park grass track should suit him well. That last 20m sorts the men out from the boys and this kid will be motoring over the top of them.

The traditional pro running fraternity who regularly support the sport have good reason to fear this kid. He has nothing to lose. Reminds me of 1987 when a young 18 year old Mark Garner was given 4.0m and ran brilliantly to finish 3rd behind the Neil King trained Russell Elliott.

Providing he shows his best running, I think Gamble can make the final along with Steve Hooker. Both are off 5.50m. Not too generous but definitely competitive and good enough for these blokes to feature prominently over the weekend at Stawell.

Watt gets the jump on Stawell Gift field
The Age
March 25, 2010

POLE vaulter Steve Hooker is the star attraction at this year’s Stawell Gift but long jumper Mitchell Watt just might be the early fancy to win it after handicap marks were released yesterday.

The world championship bronze medallist is no certainty to take his place in the field for the Easter weekend footrace, his coach said yesterday. Still recovering from a groin injury that limited his performance at last month’s world indoor championships, Watt will be monitored but is keen to make the trip for the venerable handicap.

It is the start of a flirtation with sprinting that the man dubbed Australia’s fastest ever jumper hopes will lead him to a piece of history. Not since Hector Hogan in 1954 has any athlete won the 100-metre/long jump double at an Australian national championships but Queenslander Watt has set his sights on doing just that next month.

His reason for attempting it is simple. He wants to know how fast he can be.

These are tough times for Australian sprinting. Young hope Aaron Rouge-Serret appears to have taken an indefinite leave from the sport while reigning national champion Josh Ross has exiled himself into premature retirement. Emerging runner Matt Davies has shown ability but also indicated he will be more of a threat in the 200. That has left veteran Patrick Johnson - a man who until recently had looked past his best - as the nation’s top speedster.

Watt trains with both Davies and Johnson and, coach Gary Bourne said, fancies himself quicker than either. In his only 100 hitout last year, with little starting block experience, he logged an impressive 10.37 seconds.

Olympic long jump finalist David Culbert said he had no doubt Watt was Australia’s quickest ever jumper.

‘‘Jai Taurima was fast and Gary Honey was fast,’’ Culbert said. ‘‘But the first time I saw Mitchell on the runway at nationals last year, it was breathtaking speed.’’

Should he make the start at the gift, Watt will get a 2.5-metre start on Nigerian backmarker Bola Lawal, penalised after an eye-catching semi-final charge last year. ‘‘If he can run on grass then you’d be silly to back against him,’’ Culbert said.

Bourne said a decision on whether to contest the race would be made this weekend. Hooker was given a mark of 5.5 metres yesterday, short of the seven metres the Olympic and world champion pole vaulter had wanted.

Defending champion Aaron Stubbs was given a mark of four metres while punters were already finding value yesterday in Tom Gamble, named in the world junior championships team, who was awarded a generous 5.5.

The intriguing questions, though, surround Hooker and Watt. Culbert reckons that, with work on his starts, Watt could soon be running 10.10 - the sort of time that on the long jump runway could produce an Olympic gold medal. ‘‘Jumpers know they are fast, sprinters like to think they are faster,’’ Culbert said. ‘‘There’s nothing a jumper likes more than to race the sprinters and beat them.’’

Those grass pro runs are intriguing, would be worth to try one year with my best athlete…

I’ve always been a little confused with the whole marks thing. I see my friend Tony Alozie is running. The fact that he has a 0.75 means that he’s basically starting from the start and the slower runners get a ‘head start’? Would it then be possible for a good 10.6/10.5 runner to fabricate slow times to get a better start position?

Youngy might answer better but generally runners are handicapped conservatively first off and then after a few races the handicapper probably finds their correct mark. The officials are generally strict around people who run inconsistently. But you are right it is hard for consistent runners to win. Often the event can be won by an improving runner who has got in with a good handicap. This is the richest professional race in australia. I think first prize is about $30,000 this year.

Yelood is correct - the handicappers in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania & to some extent - New South Wales sensibly give first time runners a ‘novice’ mark which is 7.0m in Vic & SA. Unless the athlete is well above average this conservatively gives the runner somewhere to start from before the handicapper can assess the athlete against the rest of the competition.

An athlete with a good (better than average) amateur background will start from less than the novice mark. Tom Gamble has run around 10.80 and 21.44 and therefore starts from a mark that will still allow him to be competitive but not off the same mark as someone who hasn’t broken 11s or 22s.

The handicap system in Victoria rewards those athletes who run regularly. The more you run the quicker you will get out to a competitive mark.

Stawell has been historically the last meet of the Victorian Athletic League season which comprises about 25 meets through the year. There is a massive change in the landscape this year in that Ararat & Ballarat, both near by towns to Stawell have moved dates to after Stawell. Ballarat usually ran in February and Ararat in early March, but wih this move it will give athletes who miss out at Stawell something to look forward to.

The Stawell Gift is worth $60,000; the Ararat Gift on Wednesday 7th April is worth $20,000 and the Ballarat Gift on 10/11 April is worth $40,000.

Never before has there been three Gifts of this magnitude offered within a week.

This will be the biggest week in Australian professional running history.

Great initiative by the VAL and the organisers and should be a super week of pro-athletics.

It is more difficult than you think to fool the handicapper & stewards. They have a lot of experience in detecting sub-par performances and athletes who do so need to be very careful as the penalties can be severe.

Most athletes put their faith in the handicapper by running regularly, consistent and to their best every time so that the handicapper can give them the mark they need to win a race.

HOWEVER if an athlete has a canny coach who knows how to flatten an athlete for lead up races but still have the nous and ability to have the athlete peak and in PB shape when it counts, then, yes, slow times can be fabricated to perhaps ‘encourage’ the handicapper to offer a bigger handicap.

The knack is peaking the athlete when it matters and the history of Stawell is littered with anecdotes of athletes who failed to perform when it mattered.

Alozie has run sub 10.2 hence the mark of 0.75m. Problem for Alozie is he seems to be very much out of form and probably won’t make the semis. He does have the invitation backmarkers to run in on Easter Monday - a one off race for the 6 fastest sprinters (backmarkers) at the meet.

Rouge-Serret just ran 10.17 (+1.8) in preperation for Nationals in April

Hi los,

Just made the Rouge-Serret story a different thread…as Aaron is not entered for Stawell.

Interesting that Jacob Groth was entered for the WA state titles, but with the release of the Stawell marks and Groth given 3.25, he didn’t run in Perth.

A big PB (say in the same nature as AR-S) would have cut Groth’s mark back.

Might be only a coincidence and he may have another reason for not running in Perth, but it does add a little intrigue and perhaps suggests Groth is serious about having a crack at Stawell off 3.25m.

I believe the top 12 fancied so far are:

Jacob Groth (NSW) 3.25m
Aaron Stubbs (QLD) 4.00m
Steve Hooker (WA) 5.50m
Tom Gamble (QLD) 5.50m
John Adams (VIC) 6.75m
Richard Hankin (NSW) 6.75m
Adam Burbridge (VIC) 7.25m
Dale Woodhams (SA) 7.25m
Kevin Brittain (VIC) 7.50m
Andrew Howell (NSW) 8.00m
Paul Cracroft-Wilson (QLD) 9.00m
Fabrice Melanie (VIC) 9.50m

Running at St Bernards yesterday where the rich Don Furness Sprint over 70m was run. It was won by David Tinney. Josh Ross was entered but did not run as (I have been told) he had not notified Athletics Australia that he had resumed training and under the drug testing protocols he needed to obtain permission before resuming competition.

Youngy — What do AA have to do with the pro runners, I was of the belief they were different entities.

All professional running leagues have to comply with the requirements of the rules in respect to drug testing. I believe there were ASADA drug testers at St Bernards yesterday. ASADA has attended a couple of VAL meets this season fro random testing.

I don’t know the full story, but I can only surmise that as an elite level athlete, (albeit briefly retired) Josh Ross is to keep AA informed as to his whereabouts and movements in respect to training & competition for drug testing purposes. I gather that as Josh had not been tested for some time (assumed retired) and was about to compete that he perhaps needed to give some notice of his intention to return to competition.

That’s how it was relayed to me on the weekend - somebody else might have better understanding of the situation.

Groth ran a very poor 200m final at QLD state champs last week. Maybe an injury?

Aaron Stubbs aims to go back to back at Stawell Gift
By Scott Gullan
Herald Sun
March 30, 2010

MUCH of a professional runner’s life is spent whingeing about his handicap as he continually tries to secure a “luxury” mark.

And for most Stawell Gift winners, Central Park is not a happy hunting ground the next year.

Most defending champions just go through the formalities, turn up, smile and wave to the crowd and do their best off a much more difficult handicap.

Only one runner in the 132-year history of the race - Bill Howard in 1966-67 - has gone back-to-back.

But Aaron Stubbs is bucking the trend on both of the above traditions. He’s not whingeing about his handicap of 4m - he won last year off 7.25m - and he says he is a serious chance to win again.

What the 19-year-old brings to the table to support his confidence is a personal best 100m time of 10.66sec, which he set 10 days ago at the Queensland state titles.

“It was in the heats and I think I have got plenty left,” Stubbs said.

"Hopefully at Stawell I can run a bit faster and, to be honest, I was really stoked with my mark.

"I expected much less, so I think off 4m I should go pretty close to making another final. It’s a big challenge (to win again) but I think I can match up to it.

“I’m not sure what time it is going to take to win the Stawell Gift. I think I can run 12.0 again, which would put me very, very close.”

Stubbs, from Lismore in New South Wales, clocked 11.87sec last year, which was the second-quickest time since electronic timing began in 1973. Only Glenn Crawford in 1995 has gone faster (11.79) down the 120m Central Park track.

A chronic hamstring problem slowed Stubbs’ progress after the biggest win of his career last Easter and the former beach sprint champion had been back in full training for only four weeks before his PB in Queensland.

“I think I have improved since last year. I’m a lot stronger now but the only thing is I haven’t been able to do a lot of running this season because of the hamstring, so the fitness side of things is a little down,” Stubbs said.

“But I know I run good come the big races and I know last year there were a couple in the semi-finals and final that sort of choked. So I’m thinking that maybe if I run good and someone who is faster might not run as well as they should, then I might get the win again.”

Last year Stubbs ran in a borrowed pair of spikes, which he’d been given by sprint star Matt Shirvington years earlier.

“I’m not putting them on again,” he said.

“I’ve actually got some of my own spikes that fit me this year, which is pretty good.”

Lifelong love of Stawell Gift’s intrigue keeps John Henry coming back
By Scott Gullan
Herald Sun March 31, 2010

JOHN Henry pauses. He has been asked to put into words the beauty of pro running.

“The amateur running I find absolutely boring,” he said. “What I love about pro running is the intrigue, not only at Stawell, but at every meeting you go to.”

For the best part of half a century, Henry has been involved in the intrigue as a runner, bookmaker’s clerk and coach. He hasn’t missed a Stawell Gift carnival since 1962 and remembers vividly the first time his father took him to Australia’s famous footrace in 1948, when he was six.

After leaving school, Henry had a few professional fights as a boxer before turning to running. He won his first race, a heat of the 70m, at Pakenham.

“I was in the red and it poured down with rain but I got up,” he said.

A couple of times he thought he was a chance at Stawell and in 1975 he won his heat but then ran into the man many regard as the greatest runner to have graced Central Park, Madagascar’s Jean-Louis Ravelomanantsoa.

“When the gun went it felt like I had only gone two strides and he was past me,” Henry said. “It was actually probably more like halfway down the straight but it felt like he’d picked me up that quick. The track was wet, it was like a quagmire, and to win it off scratch like that was an enormous run.”

In 1978 Henry hung up the spikes and became involved in what many believe to be the most important side of the caper - betting. As a bookmaker’s clerk, he has seen, or been a part of, some of the great stings.

“It’s changed a hell of a lot,” he said. "At your normal meetings you used to be able to earn a quid, but these days the runners don’t back themselves like they used to, stables don’t back themselves like they used to.

“Back in the old days, a race like the Bendigo Gift was worth 1000 to the winner and on top of that came the winnings from betting. That was a lot of money then and you had guys coming down from interstate and winning enough money to build a house or flats.”

Henry’s best betting story is a plunge that failed. In 1986 he was associated with a stable that had set a runner, Chris Ryan, to win the Gift.

“He was out at about 10m and we went in and got 33-1, backed him into 6-4 on the Friday night,” he said.

“He had a fairly easy heat, so we made sure he won but didn’t run too quick. There were two other runners who went faster in the heats, so we have gone there on the Monday morning and they’ve pushed him out to 33s again. So we have gone into him again.”

Ryan finished third behind the Neil King-trained “Vern” Chapman and Robert Ballard, who ended up representing Australia as a sprinter.

“Fancy going there thinking you can win Stawell and you strike two blokes on the novice mark having their first go and they end up to be great runners,” Henry said.

He started coaching in 1998 but said it was only in the past five years he had nailed down the caper.

While he has runners littered through three states, most of his 15-man squad trains out of Werribee.

At the weekend, one of his runners, David Tinney, won the Don Furness Memorial 70m sprint at St Bernard’s, the third time in four years a Henry-trained runner has won.

“We go where the money is,” Henry said. "That win on the weekend took us up to over $40,000 we have won this season but having said that only $12,000$13,000 of that we have won in Victoria.

“We go to Tasmania, we go to the big races in NSW and South Australia. A couple of years ago I even took the squad over to Scotland where we won about 20 races.”

He said there was an art to training a professional runner.

“As a coach you are not just trying to train a bloke to run fast, you are picking the right races and trying to organise everything,” Henry said.

"Two things must happen for somebody to win: they must be running well and their handicap must be right.

“If either of them are not spot-on, then they can’t win.”

In other words, the aim is to beat the handicapper.

“I don’t know anything about running dead,” Henry said with a smile.

"I have a theory that you plan for each of your runners to at least try and win their expenses for the season.

“If they are running and can travel all over the place and it’s not costing them, you have a happy runner. If they are happy, they will give their best.”

The Stawell Gift has eluded Henry so far. This year he has a few chances in Tinney (8.75m), John Adams (6.75m), Kevin Brittain (7.5m), Matthew Hargreaves (7m), Peter Walsh (7.75m) and Matthew Callard (8.75m).

“Somewhere along the line, they’ll be looking at one of my people and trying to figure out what is going on,” Henry said, in keeping with the intrigue he loves.


In the article Stubbs said he ran a pb in Queensland. Would he run the risk of being penalised for that and maybe being moved back from 4m to say 3.5m.

It is definitely looming as a pretty even contest at this stage.

The handicap mark was announced & published after he ran the PB.

I doubt it would have had any effect. For a runner off 4.0m - he would need to be in better than 10.66 shape to be in with any chance.

Jacob Groth (3.25m) is only 0.75m behind Stubbs and has a PB of 10.44.

Mitchell Watt has run 10.37 and has 2.50m.

Historically those who win off the novice mark of 7.0m or around that mark have been around 10.70 shape. The further back you are the more sub 10.7 you have to be.

The intrigue is that we only find that out after the event as per Stubbs in 2009!

Stubbs ran 10.66 (0.0) in the heats and then 10.81 (+0.6) in the final, so he is either not in shape for multiple rounds or has more left in him but didn’t want to show it in order to not jeopardize his Stawell Gift mark.

Watt time will win Stawell?
By John Salvado
31st March 2010

Mitchell Watt competes in the long jump at the 2009 IAAF
Athletics World Championships in Berlin.
But this weekend he sprints at Stawell. Picture:AFP Source:

IT’S a question long-jumper Mitchell Watt is looking forward to having answered this weekend. Just how fast can he run?

On the available evidence, the answer is very fast indeed for the Queenslander, who won bronze in the long jump at last year’s world championships.

He will line-up against another non-specialist in the sprint - pole vault world champ Steve Hooker.

In a rare outing over 100m on the Gold Coast last year, Watt clocked a slick 10.37 seconds using a borrowed set of starting blocks and wearing long jump spikes.

That effort was enough for the Victorian Athletic League handicappers to give him a tough mark of 2.5m for his debut appearance in the 129th edition of the Stawell Gift.

"I think I can go quicker than that,’’ Watt said today.

"I want to do some more 100s this season just to get a bit of a grasp on how much I have improved.

"And I’m just excited about racing in the Gift.

"It’s a nice change of pace from the long jump, so I’ll be a bit less nervous than usual.’’

With Australia’s leading 100m sprinters Patrick Johnson, Aaron Rouge-Serret and Matt Davies all absent, much of the interest in Stawell will be on the performances of Watt and world and Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker.

The pair were roommates at the world indoor championships a couple of weeks ago in Doha and have been indulging in some good-natured ribbing ahead of their Gift debuts.

"We’ve been having a go at each other ever since,’’ Watt said.

"Steve called me the other day and tried to tell me he wasn’t feeling all that good.

"But it’ll be fun and I hope we both make it to the final.’’

Hooker will race off a mark of 5.5m, with Bola Lawal the backmarker off 0.5m in the 120m handicap event.

Watt has had to scale back his training in the last six weeks because of a groin complaint, but has been assured by his doctor and physio that it won’t affect his sprinting.

Coach Gary Bourne said the 22-year-old Watt was looking forward to having a crack at the specialist sprinters.

"I’ve done some hand-timing of Mitch in training, but often you’re standing at the end of the track in the evening,’’ said Bourne.
"I’m not prepared to say if those times I’m getting are spot on.

"But he looks pretty good.’’

Retired Australian long jumper David Culbert - himself a former Gift semi-finalist - said Watt’s run of 10.37 last year made him Australia’s fastest-ever long jumper, surpassing Olympic silver medallists Gary Honey and Jai Taurima.

Despite spending most of his life in Queensland, Watt was born in Ballarat - about an hour down the highway from Stawell.

And he still has a lot of relatives living in the area, meaning he will enjoy plenty of support at Central Park.

The heats of the Gift are on Saturday, with the semi-finals and final on Easter Monday.