Schoolboy sprinter Jack Hale was within the shimmer of a silk from winning his heat at the Stawell Gift but was able nonetheless to advance to the final of the historic race.
The Tasmanian teenager who is the fastest Australian boy under-18 ever, Hale was the back marker of his heat running off 2.25 metres. He ran 12.48s, coming second by .01s, but was allowed to go through to the final as one of the 20 quickest times outside of the heat winners.
“I’m happy it’s a good run, can’t complain,” said Hale who remarkably at 16 was the marquee athlete of the meet.
Running on grass over 120 metres before a full grand stand at Stawell’s Central Park, Hale ran down all but one of the runners in the field. Bikramjeet Singh, who ran off 9.5 metres and so started 7.25 metres ahead of the emerging sprinter, won the heat.
“I just have a bit of trouble relaxing towards the end. When I am about to catch someone I tense up. That’s just me, I tense up and try too hard so I think that is what let me down,” said Hale, the youngest runner in the Gift.
Hale initially was uncertain whether he would get through but said he would be “over the moon” to advance to the final. He was confirmed as a finalist soon after.
“For sure there is improvement there. I just need to relax, don’t get so tight and tense up and try too hard. I need to focus on that 60m to 120m instead of going all out just keep the technique keep going.”
Hale said the professional racing in gifts had benefits for his track racing.
“I enjoy the whole thing of running people down, I have had to do that in a lot of races,” he said.
“I am not the best starter so that is one of my big problems at track running as well I have got to run some big people down, so that’s always good.”
It was a day of teenagers at the Gift with 17-year-old Darcy Roper, who will be with Hale on the Australian team for the World Youth championships in Colombia later in the year, also competing.
Only last weekend Roper came second in the long jump to Robbie Crowther in the open National Titles in Brisbane. Like Hale, he advanced to the semi-finals on time after losing his heat. Roper ran 12.47s off a 5.75m handicap.
Roper borrowed Hale’s blocks when he realised he had forgotten his in the trip down from Queensland.
“Mum lives in Bendigo so I drove across this morning. We forgot my blocks but Jack helped me out,” said Roper who has recorded the longest jump in the world by any under-18 athlete in the last two years when he recently jumped 7.85m.
And 18-year-old Tasmanian year 12 student Jacob Despard won his heat in the sharp time of 12.38s.
Despard said he was inspired by his training partner but also said the realisation they would compete against each other in Stawell meant they kept a bit of distance in the lead-up to the Gift.
“What [Jack Hale] has been able to do has definitely pushed me a lot this season. I wasn’t really that fond of him when he first came out and ran that quick time,” he said laughing. “But we’re pretty good mates actually and I really enjoy him pushing me.
“We’re from the same part of Tasmania. For a while there we were doing one [training] session a week together, but then leading up to Stawell our preparation became a bit different and training together didn’t actually work. But over the pre-season and into next season hopefully we will [train together again].”¶
South Australian Luke Houlihan’s 12.07s run was the fastest qualifier on the day and pushed him into $2 with the bookmakers and outright favourite for the final.
Two other runners, Murray Goodwin and Luke Dunbar came in with quicker times – the pair were the only runners to run sub-12 seconds, but their heats had been hand-timed as the automatic timing mechanism had failed for those heats. Goodwin is $2.50 and Dunbar $4 with the bookmakers.
In the women’s gift, which this year receives equal prizemoney with the men’s event of $40,000 for the winner, Australia’s national record holder, Melissa Breen, won her heat after running off scratch in 13.88s.
Australian Olympic 400m hurdler Lauren Wells and Australia’s national 200m winner Ella Nelson both advanced on time from their heats. Commonwealth games 400m runner Morgan Mitchell also won her heat and is through to Monday’s semi-finals.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.