HEADS DOWN: The winning group, led by Courtney Hill (pink vest), hit the line together in the 100m Ladies Gift final at Bill Paterson Oval.
HEADS DOWN: The winning group, led by Courtney Hill (pink vest), hit the line together in the 100m Ladies Gift final at Bill Paterson Oval. Inga Williams

Queensland Fire speedster surprises with her pace on the track

SUNSHINE Coast sprinters stole the show at the 33rd annual Ipswich Winter Carnival at Bill Paterson Oval on Sunday.

However, one surprised winner highlighted the quality field of allrounders being attracted to the handicap style of racing.

Queensland Fire cricketer Courtney Hill snuck under the proverbial radar to win the 100m Ladies Gift at her first attempt.

Against seasoned competitors like last year's winner Nikki Vernardos and taking on local hopes Katie Colebourne and Miriam Peni, Hill crossed the line first in a thrilling final.

"It was a little bit foreign but I really enjoyed it," said Hill, 26.

"I had no idea what was to come. I had no expectations."

The Queensland right-arm fast bowler even rang retired Ipswich-based former teammate Mel Bulow to let her know about her debut run.

"I told Mel I was coming to her stomping ground," Hill smiled, delighted to have won the final in the blustery conditions.

"I showed a little bit of nerves at cricket and I was really grateful Mel was always on the drive with me.

"I spoke to your local girl this morning and I was singing with her in my head before I did the race."

The pre-game cricket strategy seemed to help the aspiring athlete.

Hill's winning dash was 11.50 seconds, ahead of Goodna club athlete Colebourne (11.52) and Vernardos (11.56).

"Athletics training comes second," Hill said, preparing for a new season of cricket, starting with trial games next month and the national league in October.

"It's a bit unfortunate that both seasons go at once but I try to fit in what I can."

The Caloundra teacher also won her heat on the Bill Paterson Oval grass track.

"It's fast. It's over and done with really quick," she said.

"For someone like me, it's good because you can't think too much. Get in and go hard."

The men's 120m Lightning Gift was won by another Sunshine Coast visitor Conor Loughnan, who beat a terrific field featuring Ipswich club athletes Johnathon Taylor and Doug Amiss.

Loughnan won in 12.25 seconds, from UQ runner Brandon Herrigan (12.30) and another Maroochydore competitor Taylor Burns (12.33).

Taylor was fifth with Amiss seventh.

One of the toughest jobs at Sunday's annual carnival was being a photo finish judge, with so many exciting sprints.



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