Victorian teenager Matt Rizzo lived up to his status as Stawell Gift favourite with a sizzling heat win on Saturday.
Rizzo, from Langwarrin, left his rivals in his wake as he ran 12.10 seconds – 0.22 faster than any other heat winner.
Nathan Riali clocked 12.32 in holding out Ballarat youngster Mason Keast, and Will Roberts ran 12.33 as the next fastest.
A relaxed Rizzo was all smiles as he turned his attention to Monday’s semi-finals. Significantly, he believed he still has something up his sleeve and can find trim his time further.
Rizzo, 18, said while he was not too focused on the time though, with other semi-finalists also likely to run quicker in the next phase, it did give him confidence.
While Rizzo is a firming favourite, reigning Gift champion Isaac Dunmall remains in contention to complete back-to-back victories, a feat only recorded once before, by the legendary Bill Howard in 1966-67.
Dunmall said he was well aware of his chance at history. “I’m feeling really good,” he said.
Dunmall said he was confident he could finish what had been a rough season on a high.
Ballarat will be represented in the semi-finals by Mason Keast and Tom Moloney, who both finished second in heats. Moloney will be relieved after breaking and being pulled back one metre – a penalty which most likely cost him a heat win.
Heat 1: Evan Jarvis (Thornlie) 8.5m – 12.60sec
Heat 2: Ryan Bedford (Robina) 3.5m – 12.66 (revised from 13.02)
Heat 3: Jayden Gilfillan (Varsity Lakes) 8.5m – 12.41
Heat 4: Dom Mah (Little Bay) 6m – 12.54
Heat 5: Daniel Sonsini (Wantirna) 7.75m – 12.47
Heat 6: Isaac Dunmall (East Brisbane) 4m - 12.47
Heat 7: Nick MacGibbon (Peechalba) 7.25m – 12.65
Heat 8: Andrew Campbell (Eltham) 10m – 12.47
Heat 9: Michael Romanin (Preston) 4.75m – 12.41
Heat 10: Nathan Rilai (Yallambie) 4.75m – 12.32
Heat 11: Leigh Phelan (Brighton) 10m – 12.37
Heat 12: James Woodgate (Tingalpa) 6.25m – 12.46
Heat 13: Gary Finegan (Sunnybank) 5.5m – 12.50
Heat 14: Matt Burleigh (Croydon Hills) 9m – 12.63
Heat 15: Jojo Kwenin (St Kilda) 5.5m – 12.47
Heat 16: Will Roberts (Petersham) 4.5m – 12.33
Heat 17: Spencer Browne (Scoresby) 5.5m – 12.70
Heat 18: Matt Rizzo (Langwarrin) 7.5m – 12.10
Heat 19: Ryna Ilett (Woronora Heights) 6.5m – 12.61
Heat 20: Tim Delahunty (Carrara) 6.5m – 12.61
Heat 21: Cam Dunbar (Ringwood) 9.25m – 12.49
Heat 22: Bikramjeet Singh (Coburg) 10m – 12.94