Sport. Running coach Matt Beckenham with runners, Melissa Breen, leftand Lauren Boden, at Queanbeyan Park, ahead of this weekend’sQueanbeyan Gift. November 21st. 2013 Canberra Times photograph byGraham Tidy.photo.JPG Photo: Graham TidyCanberra sprint coach Matt Beckenham will unleash as 12-strong attack on the Stawell Gift as his stable of athletes chase a variety of titles at ‘s richest race.
‘s fastest woman Melissa Breen is set to go head to head with national champion Toea Wisil, who controversially won the 100 metres title in Sydney last month.
But Beckenham said the the trip to Victoria is about putting fun back in racing as Breen joins Lauren Wells, Sarah Blizzard, Brendan Matthews and Leigh Bennett for a share of the $120,000 of prizemoney on the line.
“We love the Stawell Gift and for me as a coach, it’s a great way for athletes from all levels to have an opportunity,” Beckenham said.
“That’s what handicap racing is all about. Mel and Loz being exposed athletes and running at high levels, we don’t play any games.
“Mel is one of the back markers off (0.24 metres) and Lauren is going to have a big crack at the 120 metres because that’s where the big money is.
“It’s a really fun meet for us to go down to because it’s got nothing to do with qualifying times or anything like that, it’s just good, hard, fun racing.”
Blizzard is targeting her fourth consecutive Stawell Gift finals appearance while Matthews is hoping to better his third-place finish at the 2015 race.
Fifteen-year-old Talia Martin won the women’s race last year but was fined $2000 after her form improved rapidly to cross the line in first place.
Blizzard has been nudging the line in recent years and could be well positioned to make another charge despite her handicap dropping significantly off the back of her good form.
Wells, who won her 10th national title in the 400 metre hurdles and earned a world championship berth, won the 400 metre race at Stawell last year.
But the lure of the big cash in the 120 metre race, with the winner claiming $40,000, convinced the 28-year-old to test herself over the shorter distance.
“It’s a race that has a lot of history to it … Lauren won the 400 metre sash and she couldn’t care less if it was $1 or $5000, it was about winning at Stawell and being a part of history,” said Beckenham, who will host a kid’s clinic on Sunday.
“That’s one thing I’m trying to teach and get my athletes to embrace – respect an event full of history and tradition.
“Sarah has come in 7.5 metres in the last four years so she has to keep improving. But she’s going to be fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the final.”
Saturday to Monday: Racing each day at Central Park, Stawell, with the women’s and men’s finals at 1.50pm and 2.20pm respectively on on Monday.