Gregson breaks 50-year drought to win Burnie Mile
3 January 2017
ATHLETICS: Olympic finalist Ryan Gregson became the first man in 50 years to win the Burnie Mile from scratch with a performance that rocked the timber stands at the 130th running of the Burnie Gift Carnival.
Not since Harry Downes won his third straight Burnie Mile from scratch in 1967 had the feat been achieved, a fitting piece of nostalgia on the milestone edition of the historic carnival.
King Island's Stewart McSweyn, who was pulled from 20m back to scratch after his win in Devonport early in the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival series, placed second, which made it the first time in history that scratchmarkers took both top spots. Rio Paralympic silver medallist Deon Kenzie placed third, narrowly ahead of defending champion Douglas Hamerlok.
“He’s a local boy, it was great for him get a win in Devonport. And I think this year from McSweyn you’ll see him make the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games next year on the Gold Coast," Gregson said after the win.
Gregson's winning time was 4:03.97 and while there was talk of a sub four-minute assault, Gregson said it was the wind that ultimately stood in the way of what would have been only the 8th time in Australian history that man had run sub four-minutes for a mile on grass.
“It was windy. It was really tough. The guys did a great job in making it come up nice, I saw the lawnmower go out just before the race. So that gave us every opportunity to run fast. Unfortunately the wind came up a bit, but I’d love to come back again next year and hopefully get a still day and crack four,” Gregson said.
“I’m a big fan of the sport, and especially mile running. I know all the history, so it just makes a win like this even more special. It’s just so humbling to go down in the record books with some of the greats,” he added.
Somerset’s Morgan Gaffney created history of her own to become the first woman to win three Burnie Gift sprint crowns, taking the win in 14.54 from Olympic finalist Morgan Mitchell and Hobart’s Kiara Chambers.
“This is something special. You don’t get much better than a home crowd. People that don’t know you, still cheer for you. And I just love it.
“It was more for my coach, the work that he puts in to me and the sacrifices that he makes for his family. I just really wanted to win this for him. And I have, and I’ve won it from white. Off 4.5m,” Gaffney said after adding to her 2011 and 2013 crowns.
Burnie local Jorden Englund claimed the biggest win of his career picking up $9,000 for taking out the men's feature event in 12.85 from fellow local Daniel Reeves and Melbourne’s Joel Bee. Incredibly, Reeves backed up shortly after to finish mid field in the mile.
"It means the world. Not just to me, but to the guys that I train with, my family, my coach. I’ve been running for eight years and since day dot it's the race you want to win. It means everything," Englund said.
"Super stoked to keep it here in Burnie. One more for Tasmanians and less for the Mainlanders,” Englund said.
Gregson’s win rounded out a successful Tasmanian sojourn for a handful of Australia’s top line athletes ahead of the Nitro Athletics and Summer of Aths events in 2017.
Olympic 400m semi-finalist Morgan Mitchell followed in the footsteps of her mentor Cathy Freeman by taking victory in the 400m at the Devonport Gift after already claiming the win in the sprint at Latrobe.
Mitchell now returns to Melbourne whilst Gregson and Genevieve LaCaze head to Falls Creek to join the hundreds of runners assembled in the Victorian high country for their annual summer pilgrimage.