JOEL Bee stung all rivals as he won yesterday’s $15,000 Bendigo Bank-backed Maryborough Gift 120m sprint classic.
The 20-year-old marked his first Maryborough carnival by being unbeaten in all three runs.
Racing off a mark of 2.75m, Bee won the seventh of eight heats in 12.46, and the first of two semi-finals in 12.38.
The Gift finalists faced a stiff headwind, -4.4, as they raced the slight uphill climb in the centre of Princes Park.
It was almost a straight line across the track at 30m to go, before Bee unleashed a powerful burst to capture the title and the $8000 first prize ahead of Bentleigh’s Simon Jackson, 10m; and last year’s winner Matthew Eddy, 8.25m.
The winner’s time was 12.53 seconds.
“Winning this race is right up there,” Bee said about career highlights.
The sprinting star from Albury rated last year’s Gift victory in his hometown as one of his greatest moments.
“It was the first time I had raced at the Albury Gift and the win meant a lot.”
Bee won gold in the 400m at the 2010 Athletics Australia championships in Hobart, and a year later captured the under-20 title for the 400m in Sydney.
He represented Australia at junior world championships.
“The Albury win and the national titles are my greatest career highs so far, but to win this race means a lot,” he said of the victory before hundreds of fans at the 152nd Maryborough Highland Gathering.
At the end of a duel which went less than 13 seconds, Bee triumphed ahead of Jackson, Eddy, Augustine Carty-Cowling (8.50), Shane Ezard (10.25), Tim Eschebach (7.50), Ryan Camille (10.25), and Matthew Harvey (10.75).
The latest Gift winner had previously spent time in Maryborough as a student at the Maryborough Education Centre.
Now based in Ballarat, Bee is trained by Paul Cleary.
“He has put in a lot of time and work helping me get to where I am at.”
Plans for 2013 include the national track and field championships.
A few months ago, Bee was weighing up whether to continue racing on the athletics circuit or trying to tackle footy with the North Ballarat Roosters.
Bee said running second to Joshua Ross in the 100m at the Zatopek meet at Melbourne’s Albert Park played a big part in deciding to stay sprinting.
“I ran 10.54 at the Zatopek and was right in it until the last 20 when Josh surged past me,” Bee said.
The in-form Ross won last Friday night’s Bay Sheffield final in Adelaide.
Bee said starting the New Year at Maryborough had been in plans for a couple of seasons.
“The past few years I had a stress fracture and a hamstring injury.”
The sprint star will consider racing at the Bendigo International Madison carnival in March.
After yesterday’s success, Bee said he was keen to chase back-to-back Maryborough Gift victories in a year’s time.