THE MACKSVILLE Gift has become a young man’s game in recent years.
The honour board for the iconic event – the longest continuously running professional foot race in NSW – has been littered with teenage winners of late, though mostly from the Big Smoke of Sydney.
The newfound tradition grew another leg at the weekend – though this time with a distinctly local flavour.
The 65th Gift – sponsored by local firm Active Medical Imaging – was taken out by Jarno Dolezal. The 16-year-old Kempsey High School student lives at Frederickton and trains at Scotts Head with Ritchie Donovan.
The Year 10 missile was the front marker in the Gift final, starting off 12.5 metres.
“I felt really good in the warm-up so my plan was just to go out hard at the start because I had no one in front of me – and to try and finish strong,” Jarno told the Guardian.
The youngster – in his third year at the Gift carnival – won by 2-3 metres and picked up the first prize of $2800.
Jarno, also a flying winger for the Kempsey Cannonballs rugby union under 16s side, has now set his sights on a Little Athletics carnival this weekend – before a shot at either the Queanbeyan or Botany Bay Gifts.
This year’s Gift carnival included some popular favourites in the street procession and Princesses quest plus the World Championship Banana Hurl where among others, local MP Melinda Pavey, tried her best.
A new and welcome addition was a dance segment by the Valley Performing Arts Centre, as well as a corporate style relay race between local non-athletics sports groups.
The racing proper included a multitude of events – from the prestigious Gift itself through to events from 70 to 300 metres, for established registered athletes through to novices.