Perfect Gift for Stawell legend’s student
A coach who has been there three times and a teammate who was runner-up last year is the perfect equation for Jason Bailey.
Bailey goes into Monday's Stawell Gift semi-finals as one of the favourites after an impressive heat victory on Saturday off the luxury mark of 10m.
If he needs any advice about how to handle the big occasion he has some handy sounding boards in coach Todd Ireland and teammate Hamish Adams.
Ireland is a Stawell legend - he was inducted into the event's Hall of Fame in 2015 - and a three-time finalist who had another victory at Central Park last year in the Masters 100m event.
Adams finished second off 9.5m to Jacob Despard in last year's Gift final.
Watching his mate go so close last year has been good motivation for Bailey who cruised through his heat, clocking 12.228sec.
"Jason's in really good nick," Ireland said in the lead-up to the Gift.
"Seeing his training partner Hamish get so close last year has whetted his appetite and helped him believe that winning the Stawell Gift is a real possibility.
"Jason has done everything right and really applied himself. Add that to his experience gained in making the semis last year and it is no surprise Jason is a favourite this year."
Bailey is confident he can capitalise on the outside mark given he's won four races this season from the front.
"To be up the front is a huge advantage for me," he said. "I came into a few races this season as the favourite and with four wins for the season, I've been in this position before so I'm pretty relaxed right now."
His main opposition will be rising sprint star Dhruv Rodrigues-Chico who was the only runner to break the 12-second barrier, winning his heat in 11.913sec.
Two-time winner Josh Ross believes he has more to give after overcoming a stumble in his heat which he won in 12.668sec.
The women's Gift looks like an open affair with only three runners breaking the 14-second barrier in Saturday's heats.
Alexia Loizou was the fastest clocking 13.856sec from Sophie Fighera (13.925sec) and Queensland beach sprinter Bree Masters (13.976sec).
Backmarker Maddie Coates who is running off a handicap of -1m was a close second in her heat in a time of 14.345sec.