ATHLETICS: A Noosa teenager who went largely un-detected by his coaches for years, now shapes as one of the favourite's to keep this year's $6000 Noosa Gift on home turf.
Sixteen-year-old Zane Branco has been allocated a 7m start for the 110m dash and his coach Mick Hooper believes he is in with a fighting chance.
Hooper said Branco, who started at Noosa Little Athletics when he was 11, wasn't your typical flashy type.
"Sometimes it's good to get the results when they're a little older, rather than too young because you can see opportunities to make Australian teams as not too far away,” Hooper said.
Now, Branco is the Australian under-16 long jump champion and has a qualifying distance good enough to see him picked in the Australian Youth Commonwealth Games team, which is set to tour the Bahamas in 2017.
He has also run sub-11sec for the 100m and is in with a real chance of holding off a field which includes the current, and two former Stawell Gift winners.
"He'll give it a good crack,” Hooper said. "He'll be Noosa Athletics Club's best home chance in the Noosa Gift, that's for sure.”
Hooper said he was more likely to win the 300m Gallop (worth $2250) than the shorter distance, due to his ability to hit top-speed at the end of his run.
"It's a little tricky (in the Gift) because some of the beach (sprinters) don't do much on the track so they're a little hidden from the handicapper,” Hooper said.
"The extra (200) metres suits Zane. His strongpoint isn't his start. He does finish well.”
Organisers are grinning from ear to ear, with a star-studded line-up now confirmed for the Coast's richest race on foot.
Coordinator Ian Smith believes it's now the second-richest gift event in the state, behind the Gold Coast Gift, traditionally run on Australia Day each year.
The first heats of the open Noosa Gift are due to start at about 3.30pm, with the Gift finals set for 6.30pm.
The backmarker's final, which could pit the fastest runners in Queensland against each other, is due to start at 6pm.
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