ARARAT - Evergreen local runner Marcus Cooper heads into next week's Ararat Gift meeting with winning form and will be looking to win his third home town title.
It has been 14 years since Cooper last won the 120-metre feature race at the Ararat Gift, however the veteran athlete continues to impress on the Victorian Athletic League circuit and heads into next Monday's meeting having won the Terang Gift earlier this month.
Cooper said he is hoping to add a third Ararat sash to his collection, although his preparation hasn't been ideal.
"I stepped in a hole at training and did tendons in my foot after Terang, so I haven't had a real good build up to it," he said.
"I am not going there with confidence, even after winning, if that makes sense.
"You sort of know your body when you are running well and I have missed a fair chunk of training, so I am trying to get it back quickly.
"There are a few good runners there, but it is definitely not as strong as last year. I think a lot of guys have learnt they can't back up from Ararat and then go to Maryborough the day after, hence why I am only running in one event.
"Three would be perfect! Ideally I would love three, but the older I am getting if I turn up and am feeling well I could win, if I am feeling a little bit off then I am no chance.
"That is just the case now, like at Terang, I turned up and went well for the day, but I might turn up at Ararat and not be good at all You just don't know."
Standing in Cooper's way of glory will be 33 other entrants for the $5000 120-metre Tom McDonald Memorial Ararat Gift.
Sally Perry from the Ararat Highland Sports Society said that the meeting will feature eight races on the card.
"The VAL have got two new events that they are including in our meeting this year, one being the East Malvern Bendigo Bank under-20 120 metres and the other is the SportzBiz 400-metre novice series," she said.
"We also have Little Athletics coming again to run over 70, 100, 200 and 400 metres, we have Highland Dancing and the Dr Ian Matthews Memorial Handicap over 1600 metres.
“Being this time of year it is a little bit difficult to get people travelling because there are two meetings split between Victoria and South Australia (the other being the Bay Sheffi eld Carnival), but we still have some top runners coming over from South Australia to compete which will make for a good spectacle.”
The addition of the under 20s race has given some of Ararat’s local talent the chance to showcase their skills in front of a home crowd.
Ruby Klemm, Tiffany Boatman, Jacquie Scott, Fraser Heard, Brody Taylor and Ben Boatman will all be vying for a shot at the prize money on offer.
Ms Perry said it would be great to see the local runners from the Marcus Cooper Stable on top of the podium.
“Hopefully they do well, they are showing that their form is pretty good at different events so far this season,” she said.
“It would be nice for a couple of them to come through and win locally. It is always nice to have a local win, especially the main event.
“We haven’t had anyone win for a while, Simon Menz was probably the latest one to do well in a gift final (second in 2010), so hopefully we can have a couple more come through and get a sash even in the 300 or 400-metre races would be good.”
Entry to the Ararat Gift on Monday, December 30 will be free, with the action to kick off at 1pm at Alexandra Oval.
Ms Perry said the Ararat Rural City has once again done a fantastic job of preparing the track.
“As always, every runner who runs at Ararat says they wish they had our surface at the Stawell Gift,” she said.
“They reckon that it far outweighs any other track that they run on anywhere. A lot come over and practise early, so they will arrive a couple of days before and head down and have a warm up.”