Romanin wins Maryborough Gift; Russo blitzes rivals in women's feature

MELBOURNE sprinter Michael Romanin is hopeful his win in Monday’s Max Martin Maryborough Gift can be the launching pad to Commonwealth Games selection next year.

The 21-year-old outsprinted a class field to claim the $8000 first prize in the feature event at the 157th Highland Gathering at Princes Park.

Romanin, who was fifth in last year’s Stawell Gift behind Matthew Rizzo, set himself up for an excellent tilt at the final by winning both his heat and semi-final.

“It was a tough field to beat. I knew coming out running against these guys I was going to have to work pretty hard especially at the start so they didn’t get away from me on the downhill slope,” he said.

“But it was good to hold them off.

“My form (leading into the race) had been good, I’ve been pretty consistent in state competitions.”

Racing off three metres, Romanin held off fast-finishing Tim Eschebach, from Brisbane, to win a time of 12.362 seconds, with William Little, from Glenhuntly, close by in third.

It was the Preston-based athlete’s second major Gift win in central Victoria.

He last year won the Bendigo Gift, run in conjunction with the Bendigo International Madison event.

Romanin said a shot at Commonwealth Games selection and this year’s Stawell Gift would be high on his agenda during the early months of the new year.

Meanwhile, Olivia Russo blitzed her rivals to win the women’s 120m sprint feature in 14.15 seconds.

The 21-year-old from Brighton was competing for the first time at Maryborough and immediately vowed to be back next year following her stunning win.

“My coach (Justin Lewis) used to run here and he told all of us runners we have to come here because this was in his top three favourite race days,” she said.

“So we are all here today and him pumping (the event) up did not fail to live up to expectations.

“It’s been amazing – it’s such a great atmosphere.”

Russo did not hesitate to nominate the win as the biggest of her career.

“I’ve never really had a consistent season, whether I have been injured, or been away,” she said.

“This season has been the most consistent, getting through winter and now I’m here for  summer.

“It’s looking promising, so touch wood from here I don’t get injured.”

Pamela Austin (Wandana Heights) was the runner-up ahead of Jody Richards (Maidstone).

Russo earlier showed signs of better things to come by winning her heat in 14.90 seconds.

A trip to Castlemaine for next Saturday’s Gift meeting is next on the cards for Russo followed by a crack at the 120m handicap at Rye on January 13.