First titles claimed at inaugural Gift weekend

The first of the big events at the inaugural WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift have been decided with Ryan Camille and Sophie Watts claiming the women’s and men’s 70m titles respectively.

Perth-based Watt’s defeated Katherine Sparrow and Joanne Stannard to claim the sprint and a $1000 cheque.

Watts and Sparrow started from 3.75m and held off a strong chase from Stannard who started from 2.5m.

Camille, who races in the Victorian Athletics League, had a great start from his 5.25m mark and managed to hold off William Bailey (5m) and race favourite Bryce Teo (2.5m).

He attributed his surprise win to a new training focus on longer distances.

“I’m a good starter but have been working on my 120s and 400s this season,” he said after the race.

“It’s a bit of a shock to win, but fantastic.

“I’ve come over from Melbourne for this event and it is great, how could anyone not enjoy running here right next to the ocean here in Bunbury?”

Having won the 70m, Camille will be a favourite going into tomorrow’s 120m, but he has a tough field to face, arguably stronger than the famous Stawell Gift which ran a few weeks ago.

Paralympian and race commentator Brad Scott has been watching the form and rates 70m runner up Bailey (9m) as a chance alongside WA sprint star Aaron Bresland (1.5m)  and local boy Dylan Panizza (7.25m)

But all eyes will be on Stawell winner Jacob Despard starting from 2.25m and Commonwealth Games sprint stars Jack Hale (0.75m) and Trae “quadzilla” Williams who will start from scratch.

“The real battle will be Trae and Jack, Trae’s fast turnover will help for the first 20m but Jack has more purchase when he runs and is my pick over Trae,” Scott said.

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Thrilling Finish to Inaugural South West Sprint

Curtin Athletics Club teammates Kiara Reddingius and Evan Jarvis have done the double and taken out the women’s and men’s WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift in spectacular fashion.

Running from 3.75m Reddingius took charge with 50m to go, holding off Sophie Watts and Commonwealth Games sprinter Riley Day to take the win and $14,000 cheque.

An emotional Reddingius said the win meant a lot having come off a rollercoaster season just missing out on Commonwealth Games selection in her pet event, the heptathlon.

She said she would use her prize to pay for trips to the Eastern States to compete.

“It’s very crippling coming from WA trying to get to these competitions which is why it was a struggle to get a [Commonwealth Games] qualifier because I don’t get to go over East a lot,” Reddingius said after the race.

Jarvis said the race was a blur.

“It happened so quick, it went in a flash and I was just happy to get there,” he said, adding the inaugural event was a definite stayer for the athletic calendar.

“It’s incredible, I am really happy to be here and it is a fantastic event and we’ll definitely be coming back next year,” he said.

Earlier Trae ‘quadzilla’ Williams and Aaron Bresland thrilled the crowd in the backmarkers 120m with WA’s fastest man Bresland pipping Williams on the line.

The extra 20m proved too tough for the Australian 100m champion, who has the fastest first 10m in the world, and Bresland came over the top to take the win.

Alanah Yukich won the women’s race ahead of local girl Julia Phillips and Rio Olympian Peter Bol used his distance training to take out the four-round men’s Skins Elimination event, while Tiana Merritt won the women’s.

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Kiara Reddingius and Evan Jarvis

Curtin Athletics Club teammates Kiara Reddingius and Evan Jarvis have done the double and taken out the women’s and men’s WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift in spectacular fashion.

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Bunbury Geographe Gift set to Do More with WesTrac

Athlete and event committee member, Dylan Panizza, WesTrac Group Manager Construction, Used Equipment, Rental & Commercial Engines, Cameron Callaway and Chief Executive Officer – WA, Jarvas Croome.

The organisers of Australia’s newest professional running race are thrilled to announce leading equipment solutions company WesTrac as naming-rights partner. The WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift, as the event is now known, will attract Australia’s elite athletes to chase a $78,000 prize pool on April 28 and 29 next year. Modelled on the famous Stawell Gift, there will be a hefty $20,000 up for grabs in each of the male and female elite 120m handicap events.

The Bunbury Geographe region is home to large mineral and agricultural industries, underpinning an active bulk commodity port for exports. The region accounts for between two and three percent of the state’s economy by size and value and is a major manufacturing hub for sectors including wood products, mineral processing and food. The region also forms part of an important tourism and a population growth corridor.

WesTrac is one of the world’s largest authorised Caterpillar dealers and manages its operations in the South West and Great Southern regions from Bunbury. WesTrac WA Chief Executive Jarvas Croome said becoming the major sponsor for the new event is a great way for WesTrac to repay the support that the local community has shown it over the years.

“Wherever it’s possible, WesTrac believes in giving something back to the communities in which it operates,” he said. “The WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift promotes healthy lifestyle choices, athleticism and will help further raise the profile of the region and attract visitors.”

WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift project manager Jo O’Dea said having WesTrac on board was exceptional for the event, not only because of the financial benefits, but also because WesTrac as a company is iconic on this side of the country and with it brings a very Western Australian feel to the event.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have WesTrac join us to present this exciting event,” Ms O’Dea said.

“To have such a well-known and established company as partner is testament to the quality and strong future of the WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift.”

Athletes from all over the country will converge on the Bunbury Recreation Ground for the event and with the Commonwealth games a couple of weeks prior, there will be plenty of opportunity to attract big names.

A two-day programme of races will be enhanced by a series of activities to cater for every member of the family. Including lawn games, athletics clinics, yoga, 5km fun run, interactive activities, licensed trackside lounge, Wyalup Beach cafe, the expanding program will create a unique annual family event.

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Home Town Hero to Return for Gift

West Australian sprinter, Julia Phillips, is looking forward to racing in her home town at next year’s WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift.

Originally a South Bunbury girl, Phillips relocated to Perth at the age of 17 to study teaching, just this week completing her final teaching practicum.

Not only has she been studying hard, she has travelled across Australia and raced in a variety of gift races that she said were “fantastic, fun community events”.

But there will be nothing like running on home soil.  

“I can’t wait to have my family cheering me on”, Phillips said.

Phillips achieved a win and personal best at last year’s Queanbeyan Gift in New South Wales which, along with further PBs on the track, has meant she now has quite a substantial handicap.

She has a lot of hard work ahead of her — a typical training week involving seven training sessions, three in the gym and four on the track.

“Its tough from the back, but I’ll give it my best shot,” Phillips said.

It will be exciting to watch what she can do next year with the whole of Bunbury cheering her on along.

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On Your Marks, Get Set, Go! Entries Open for $78,000 Gift

Entries for the inaugural WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift open today. With a $78,000 prize pool, the event has already attracted the attention of Australia’s top athletes including Rio Olympian Peter Bol and young gun rivals Jack Hale and Trae Williams.

With personal bests of 10.21 and 10.27 respectively for the 100m, the pair have been trading U20 national records and will be sure to set the track alight in Bunbury.

Hot on their heels will be recent Bay Sheffield Gift winner and one of Australia’s most exciting young talents, Sasha Zhoya.

Just fifteen-years-old, Zhoya is the second youngest ever to win the prestigious South Australian 120m event, and it’s $13,500 winner’s cheque. He also stormed to an emphatic win in the 70m dash, the first man to claim the sprint double since 1989.

Zhoya said he was looking forward to competing in Bunbury.

“There should be a massive turnout and with big prize money heaps of people are going to rock up, it’s going to be great,” he said.

Also confirmed for the event on April 28 and 29 is Australia’s fastest woman under 20 (11.59 100m), Riley Day, Bay Sheffield fourth-place-getter Dylan Panizza and finalist Taylor Sharpe along with women’s finalist Virginia Stasyszyn.

Modelled on the famous Stawell Gift, the Bunbury event will feature the headline men’s and women’s 120m along with 70m, 400m, 600m, skins elimination race and invitational 120m. In addition to this are mixed male/female 100m, 300m and relay events and a full little athletics program.

Event manager Jo O’Dea urged those thinking about competing or spectating to plan their travels and secure accommodation soon as interest was growing across Western Australia and interstate.

“Interest in both the athletics and family activities is growing and we are expecting a great turnout,” she said.

A full family program will run across the two-day event including 5km fun run, athletics clinics, parkour, lawn games, and yoga. Spectators will be well catered for with a licensed trackside lounge and Wyalup Beach cafe.

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The Art of Handicapping: No ‘Skulduggery’ Allowed!

Thinking of cheating the handicappers for the upcoming WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift? You may want to think again.

This year’s handicapper Mark O’Brien is dedicated to his craft. He frequently spends 25-30 hours a week in his voluntary role, running formulas in his own time to make certain that everyone is given a fair-go come race day.

O’Brien is no stranger to the world of competitive racing; he has spent most of his life in various athletic roles.

Once an avid athlete himself, he has been handicapping competitions for the past eleven years for the Victorian Athletic League and independently, including overseeing the Stawell Gift – a major inspiration for the original Bunbury Golden Gift and now the new event.

He now works for an accounting firm, fuelling his flair for numbers, and continues his passion for athletics handicapping on a volunteer basis.

This wealth of experience means O’Brien knows what to look out for when calculating an individual’s handicap.

“You can learn a lot from an athlete’s form. Online records now make the job a little easier, but it’s up to the handicapper to put the time in to get accurate results.”

O’Brien is confident he can pick an athlete who may be trying to cheat the system.

More often than not though, he says it isn’t necessarily the athletes you want to look out for.

“Athletes mostly just want to run. A lot of the ‘skulduggery’ you find will come from coaches looking to cheat the handicappers.”

However if a coach does try to subvert the system, O’Brien will not likely forget, “their file is marked, and we will treat them with greater caution in the future.”

Ultimately he says it’s up to the athletes to play fair, and is a firm believer of communication and mutual respect to get the most accurate results from athletes.

In such a competition like the WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift, with a staggering $78,000 total prize pool at stake, you may wonder ‘why handicap at all?’  Handicapping, while it seems a tedious task, results in a more entertaining race according to O’Brien.

“With most national and international races, you can pretty much predict the one or two people who are likely to win, but just like the Melbourne cup, handicapping just means everyone has an equal opportunity.”

With an even playing field, absolutely everyone must try their best on the day for a shot at the prize, “you never know who’s going to win.”

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National Race on the Starting Blocks in Bunbury Geographe

Race starters: Tom Dillon, Colin and Anne Piacentini and event manager Jo O'Dea are the brains behind the Bunbury Geographe Gift

Race starters: Tom Dillon, Colin and Anne Piacentini and event manager Jo O’Dea are the brains behind the Bunbury Geographe Gift

Australia’s elite athletes will chase a $78,000 prize pool at the inaugural Bunbury Geographe Gift to be held on April 28 and 29 next year. Modelled on the famous Stawell Gift, there is massive $18,000 up for grabs each for the male and female winners of the elite 120m handicap event.

It is anticipated athletes from all over the country will converge on the South West WA hotspot. And with the Commonwealth games a couple of weeks prior, there will be plenty of opportunity for the event to attract big names.

The brainchild of local businessman Colin Piacentini in response to the changing social and economic climate in the South West, the race is seen as a way to drive people back to Bunbury.

Project manager Jo O’Dea said the event already had overwhelming support from local businesses, the Bunbury Geographe Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Athletics WA and the City of Bunbury.

“With more than $150,000 raised already and planning well underway, we are set to deliver an event of national significance,” she said.

City of Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan congratulated Mr Piacentini and his family for developing and promoting the exciting initiative.

“The City Council is pleased to be a major sponsor and our community looks forward to welcoming athletes and supporters to our wonderful City in 2018,” he said.

“This event is another opportunity to showcase our City and the Bunbury Geographe region and enhances a growing events calendar centred on sporting and cultural activities.”

Mr Brennan said he anticipates the event will draw a large number of first time visitors to Bunbury and the region and hopes their positive experience will result in return visits.

Held at the Bunbury Recreation Ground, the Gift will feature a two-day programme of races enhanced by a series of activities to cater for every member of the family. Including lawn games, athletics clinics, yoga, 5km fun run, interactive activities, licensed trackside lounge, Wyalup Beach cafe, the expanding program will create a unique annual family event.

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Expert Handicapper Announced for Inaugural Gift

The organisers of the inaugural $78,000 Bunbury Geographe Gift have secured the services of accomplished handicapper Mark O’Brien.

The former Victorian Athletics League Chief Handicapper has a long history of involvement in both athletics and pro-running, as an athlete, coach and later handicapper.

“Pro-running is a uniquely Australian endeavour. In some respects it exemplifies some of our characteristics — it gives everyone a fair go,” O’Brien said.

An accountant by trade, O’Brien admits he has a flair for numbers and statistics, but maintains handicapping is an art.

“I really enjoy the sport and the statistical side of athletics is of interest to me, I always knew everyone’s form,” he said.

“The attraction of pro-running to me is that you don’t have to be the most gifted athlete to win.

“If you have worked as hard as you possibly could the handicaps provide a balance of abilities, and if you have worked hard enough you can achieve success.”

O‘Brien’s handicapping career includes overseeing the famed Stawell Gift for six years, writing the VAL  procedures and guidelines and later as a VAL director, overseeing the VAL Handicap Review Panel.

He said he was thrilled to be involved with the Bunbury Geographe Gift and was keen to see a  competitive and exciting event.

“It will be the last major pro race for the season in Australia, so everybody’s form will be exposed. Pro athletes would have already given their best — which will make the job of handicapping Bunbury transparent and compelling.”

O’Brien will receive assistance from Athletics WA on the form of local athletes, but would ensure the races will be competitive.

“Pro-running in WA has struggled and part of it has been providing a level playing field for all of their athletes,” he said.

“I would love to see a really good professional event in WA get some traction and progress.

“The organisers have the capacity and vision to make it work, Stawell is a great event and it is wonderful to have an event in WA that can provide something along those lines.”

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Get involved in the Gift!

Be a part of this year’s WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift

Whether you would like to become a sponsor, volunteer to help out over the weekend or operate as a stallholder, we're always looking for people to join the WesTrac Bunbury Geographe Gift.

If you’ve got any questions, give us a call.

0408 822 214