FINE LINE-UP: Ipswich and District Athletic Club competitors preparing for Sunday's Winter Carnival include Patrick McCarthey, Sony Vukelic, Jade Hardy-Synnott, Noah Draper, Cooper Farnsworth, Liz Melrose and Laylani Va'ai. Teenager Ben Thomas had to withdraw this week due to injury.
FINE LINE-UP: Ipswich and District Athletic Club competitors preparing for Sunday's Winter Carnival include Patrick McCarthey, Sony Vukelic, Jade Hardy-Synnott, Noah Draper, Cooper Farnsworth, Liz Melrose and Laylani Va'ai. Teenager Ben Thomas had to withdraw this week due to injury. Vic Pascoe

Athletes share in prizemoney, rich traditions

PREPARING for Ipswich's 37th Winter Carnival, athletics official Vic Pascoe knows how valuable the competition is to the city.

"It's a stepping stone to state championships like the AllSchools,'' Pascoe said.

"You're getting a little hitout before you race in the big stuff, at championship level.''

Many South East Queensland athletes use the annual competition to test their off-season training heading into a busy calendar of upcoming events.

With more than $11,000 in prizemoney across the five handicap events, competitors have an added reason to share in the rich carnival traditions.

The two main finals at Bill Paterson Oval on Sunday afternoon are the Ipswich Lightning Gift and Ipswich Ladies Gift, both over 120m under a handicap format.

The Lightning Gift winner will receive $2800, with the Ladies Gift victor taking home $2200.

Among the top contenders for Lightning Gift honours are Gary Finegan, who finished third in this year's Stawell Gift.

He won the 2001 Lightning Gift.

Other runners of note include Fejiro Omuvwie, Jordan Spry, Anthony Seeto, Tim Eschebach, Terri-Ann Cain, Elly Buchholz and Stephanie Welsh.

Omuvwie has been a finalist in the Somerset and Australia Day gift races earlier this year.

Spry is one of the favourites after impressing at the Somerset Gift.

Seeto, trained by Gavin Hunter, is one to watch.

Eschebach is a former Stawell Gift finalist.

Cain is a fast beginner and one of the top hopes in the Ladies Gift.

Bucholz is winning her interclub open competition.

Noosa-bred Welsh represented Australia in the under- 18 100m at this year's Melanesian Games.

It will be the 29th time the two open Gift races are run at Ipswich's athletics headquarters.

Winners and placegetters in the under-18 boys and girls 70m Dash finals will also share in some prizemoney.

While pleased to see athletes offered some extra cash to help with their sport, Pascoe said an appealing aspect of the carnival was the challenge for families.

"I enjoy seeing everybody trying to give it their best,'' the highly respected coach said.

"We've got a lot of masters this year in the field events. Just seeing them have fun and then encourage the young ones to have a go too.

"You see mums and dads there throwing and jumping and even having a run over 100m where they get a medal.

"They have lots of fun.''

A number of athletes competing on Sunday will back up at the Mulgowie Gift at Laidley a week later.

"With all these championships coming up later in the year, there's not many places where you can have three or four runs on the one day over your preferred distance,'' Pascoe said.

The Ipswich Winter Carnival offers that with heats, semis and finals over a three or four hour period.

The Ipswich and District Athletic Club will be well represented on Sunday.

Among talented athletes competing are Patrick McCarthey, Sony Vukelic, Jade Hardy-Synnott, Noah Draper, Cooper Farnsworth, Liz Melrose and Laylani Va'ai.

McCarthey, 34, lines up in the 120m Lightning Gift. He's in good form having won the 100m Somerset Gift last month in Mudgeeraba.

Vukelic, 16, is a club newcomer also contesting the Lightning Gift along with the U/18 Boys 70m Gift.

Hardy-Synnott, 17, has nominated for the Ladies Gift and U/18yrs Girls 70m Gift. She just missed making the final at the recent Somerset Gift.

Draper, 15, is a big improver competing in the Lightning Gift and U/18 Boys 70m Gift. He won the 15 years 100m Gift in Mudgeeraba recently.

Farnsworth, 13, is running for the first time in the U/18 Boys 70m Gift. He's also contesting the long jump and U/14 100m.

Melrose, 23, is one of the most experienced runners in the Ladies Gift returning from injury.

Va'ai, 16, is set to run the Ladies Gift and U/18 Girls 70m Gift. The rising athlete is also competing in the high jump and discus.

In-form 16-year-old runner Ben Thomas unfortunately had to withdraw with a hamstring injury.

Three other top performing club athletes - Tamara Carvolth, Jude Thomas and Holly-Maree Matthew - are contesting this weekend's Australian Cross Country championships at Maleny on the Sunshine Coast.

Top event

The 37th annual Ipswich Winter Carnival is on Sunday at the Bill Paterson Oval, Limestone Park, from 9.30am.

The main finals are the $4000 Ladies Gift at 2.15pm before the $5000 Lightning Gift at 2.30pm.

Athletes can still nominate on the day for the non-Gift handicap events.

For more information, visit www.ipswichathletics.org.au or phone 0409 754884.