REIGNING Stawell Gift champion Matt Wiltshire is hoping for back-to-back victories in the 70-metre sprint at this year’s Ballarat Gift.
Wiltshire said the handicapper might have made it hard for him to win the 120m gift on Sunday at Eureka Stadium but liked his chances at the shorter distance.
He said the Ballarat Gift this weekend would be his first major race for the season.
“I’m feeling good about the 70 metres, and as I won that last year, I’d really like to win it back-to-back,” Wiltshire said.
He will race as the back marker for both heats on Saturday, off 3.25m in each.
The Gift heats will be held on Saturday afternoon, before the finals on Sunday; a timetable shared by the Junior Dash for Cash.
The sprinter spoke to pupils at Our Lady Help of Christians primary school yesterday, aiming to get more children running the junior races.
Wiltshire said almost 300 children had registered for the Junior Dash for Cash and hoped that at least 50 more would sign up after his time spent with the pupils.
“It gives young people a taste for professional running – there is about $2000 of prizemoney they will share in,” Wiltshire said.
“Any kids aged between five and 15 can race at any ability as it’s all handicapped.”
School principal Stephen Russell said one of the many great things about Wiltshire was that he was a great model as well as an athlete.
“He works towards goals – he’s spoken to the kids here before, about how when he was their age, he didn’t make sport teams yet he set himself goals,” Mr Russell said.
“It’s inspiring for the kids to hear.”
Wiltshire said he had raced some of the pupils, getting them enthused about running.
“They’re excited about the weekend, about racing at the same event as the likes of Josh Ross,” he said.
“The kids have asked me if I’ve been to the Olympics – I say hopefully in three years.”
Grade six pupil Ellie Fenton said the speed at which Wiltshire ran was almost inhuman.
She said she hoped to enter the Dash for Cash on the weekend, and compete in the finals so she could strut out with the athletes in the finals of the gift.
Wiltshire said although he was in good form, he would be at his best for Stawell.
“I’m running nearly four metres back on last year’s race, so that’s four metres I have to improve,” he said.
“I’m just looking forward to going back as the reigning champion and soaking up the atmosphere.
“I’m still getting used to getting off the blocks and having to run with everyone in front of me.”
Registrations for the Junior Dash for Cash can still be made before the heats on Saturday, opening at 1.30pm at Eureka Stadium.