Ballarat’s Grace O’Dwyer turned back the clocked with an impressive Stawell Women’s Gift heat win on Saturday.
O’Dwyer, who,won the Stawell’s Women’s Gift two years ago, admitted to being surprised by her performance,
Off the back mark of 5m in the sixth of 17 heats, O’Dwyer ran 14.08 seconds for the 120m dash.
Canberra-based Ararat sprinter Sarah Blizzard was another to catch the eye.
She ran 14.04 to win her heat and progress straight to Monday’s semi-finals.
Wantirna’s Taylah Perry produced the fastest heat-winning time of 13.69.
However, it was dual national champion and scratchmarker Toea Wisil who captured the imagination of the Central Park crowd with her comfortable heat win.
Fresh from taking out the 100m and 200m at the Australian Track and Field Championships, the Queensland-based Papua-New Guinean did it with ease.
She is attempting to join Melissa Breen as the only scratchmarker to take out the women’s gift. Breen achieved the feat in 2012.
Wisil said she was “so happy” to be into the semi-finals in her first visit to Stawell.
She said he had been encouraged by coach Tony Fairweather to run at the famous Easter carnival.
“He said I should go. So why not.
She was particularly impressed by the crowd and atmosphere.
For O’Dwyer, she said she was surprised by her run.
“I’m so happy.”
O’Dwyer said nose surgery at the end of last season meant it had taken her sometime to find anything like her best form after losing fitness during the recuperation period.
She said she had felt she was “back” in the past two to three weeks.,
Blizzard is chasing her fourth Stawell Women’s Gift final appearance in as many years.
The 20-year-old has finished second, third and sixth in the past three years and is delighted to be in the running to get another chance at the title.
Heavily-back Donvale youngster Liv Ryan, could only manage third to Perry in her heat, but still advanced to the semi-finals with one of the fastest losing times.
While Ballarat teanager and last year’s Stawell Women’s Gift winner Talia Martin finished midfield in her heat, she still did enough to qualify for the semi-finals as one of the fastest 17 losing times.
Heat 1: Tori West (Idalia) 9.75m – 14.10 seconds
Heat 2: Lauren Jauncey Gorringe (Sandy Bay) 10m – 14.00
Heat 3: Lauren Wells (Flynn) 4.25m – 4.25
Heat 4: Bridget Powell (Areegra) 9m – 14.03
Heat 5: Kiara Reddingius (Como) 4.5m – 13.97
Heat 6: Grace O’Dwyer (Ballarat) 5m – 14.08
Heat 7: Lily Mickltewait (Bedford Park) 10.5m – 14.28
Heat 8: Davina Strauss (Sydney) 9m – 13.90
Heat 9: Toea Wisil (Varsity Lakes) scr – 13.84
Heat 10: Amie Mittiga (Flagstaff Hill) 5.5m – 14.01
Heat 11: Sarah Blizzard (Bruce/Ararat) 5.5m - 14.04
Heat 12: Taylah Perry (Wantirna) 8.5m – 13.69
Heat 13: Sophie Taylor (Pascoe Vale) 5.75m – 14.11
Heat 14: Caitlin Hawks (Nathalia) 8.5m – 14.04
Heat 15: Karlee Bailey (Pakenham) 11m – 13.97
Heat 16: Mikayla Round (Aberfoyle Park) 8.5m – 14.20
Heat 17: Nicki Vernados (Holmview) 8.5m – 13.89