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Ballarat School girl amazes the crowd

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Photo by Luke Hemer Grace O’Dwyer the first women to win $40,000 Women Stawell gift being lifted by her backup team after her amazing run.

THE Woolworths Stawell Gift has been held in all but four years since 1878, and is one of the world’s most famous and prestigious foot races. Run on grass, athletes are handicapped according to form and ability, and start off varying marks accordingly. The main race is the Woolworths Stawell Gift which is run over 120m up a slight gradient, and the final is traditionally held on Easter Monday.

The 2015 carnival turned a corner over the Easter weekend with the same prize money presented to the Stawell Women’s Gift winner as the men’s.

This is the first time that the prize money has been on par and Ballarat teenager Grace O’Dwyer is the first recipient of the $40,000 Stawell Women’s Gift.

Mobbed by family and friends after crossing the finish line, O’Dwyer, 15, was speechless after her win realising she had achieved what her father has chased for almost 30 years – a win in the Stawell Gift.

Her father is Peter O’Dwyer, has run in 28 Stawell Gifts, even reaching the semifinals. Peter is also her coach and has a number of promising athletes in his stable. In 2012 he trained Stawell Gift winner Matt Wiltshire and last year’s Women’s Gift winner Holly DobbynWiltshire.

Speaking about his daughter’s triumph he gushed “That was huge. I was 21 when I ran my first one. If she keeps going she will have run eight by the time I ran my first.”

She was a ball of nerves going into the semi and having to get through on fastest times was probably a blessing. She had nothing to lose; she could relax and go for it.” After a clear heat win O’Dwyer was a pre-race favourite and had advanced to the semi-finals as one of two fastest qualifiers. While O’Dwyer is a consistent finalist and placegetter, including the Ballarat’s Women’s Gift, this was by far her greatest triumph and in her acceptance speech she thanked her father for everything he had done,

I’ve done everything right, every step of the way,” she said.

I did everything to prepare for this.

I re-composed myself after the semi and gave all I had got in the final.” Grace added that the actual race was just a blur and she couldn’t remember much of it.

FINAL PLACINGS

1 Grace O’Dwyer 10.25m 13.40 seconds

2 Anna Pasquali 13.75m

3 Lynette Viney 9.75m

4 Cailtin Hawks 12m

5 Keely Henderson 14m

6 Sarah Blizzard 9.5m