IT TOOK practically the full 800m distance for Michael Preece to mow down the frontmarker in Monday’s open final at Maryborough, but the winner he did emerge.
Rowville’s Martine Beer, off 182m, looked every inch the winner throughout the $1000 event, after leading into the home straight at Princes Park and for all but less than a second approaching the finishing line.
But following one last gut-busting effort, it was the Long Gully athlete who was able to steal victory from the frontmarker in the day’s most exciting finish.
While the judges took plenty of time to deliver their verdict, Preece was always confident he had done enough to earn the nod as the victor.
Similarly, Beer was equally certain she had held on to win.
“I was surprised with how much I had left in the final 400m – I thought when I saw Martine with about 50m to go I just had to give it my all,” Preece said.
“I knew with about 10m to go it was going to be close and if I have to dive – and I didn’t really want to – I would have.”
Stawell’s Tom Walker was close up in third spot ahead of Brad Kitto, from North Brighton.
The win was Preece’s second in his career at Maryborough. He previously won the 1600m handicap five years ago.
“It’s a great way to start the new year to race here,” he said.
“I really enjoy coming out here seeing as though it’s not too far from Bendigo.”
Equally as happy following Preece’s win was his training partner and best man at his wedding Jacob Nolan.
The Strathdale athlete finished the race in sixth position, not far off the placegetters, but said he was rapt to see his mate breakthrough for the win.
The pair will again be competitors at next Saturday’s Castlemaine Gift meeting, where the temperatures forecast to be in the high 30s.
“We’ll just battle through it and put in the hard yards,” said Preece, who expects to be re-handicapped following his Maryborough win.
Meanwhile, Bendigo’s Lonain Burnett, who was the Victorian Athletics League’s middle-distance runner of the year in 2016-17, finished sixth in his final of the open 400m.
The race was won by lavington visitor Mitchell Palmer.