THE Warrnambool Gift will provide a handy springboard for 2020 Toyko Olympics hopeful Luke Stevens.
The 25-year-old Tarneit resident will travel down to Warrnambool for the first time in six years as he chases a spot on the Australian Athletics team for next year's summer games.
Stevens, the reigning Victorian 400-metre champion, said VAL rounds, such as this weekend's Victorian Athletic League event, provided a good opportunity to get race experience early in his season.
"I'd love to put my best forward and get some good results and sometimes the handicap is not favorable but I know that I can be competitive," he said.
"I like to have a positive attitude because it helps remind me that it's early in the season but I will try to win as you always do in these races.
"If I can do really well on the day and come away with positive results then it will be a good base for my season going forward."
The Western Athletics member, who will be travelling down to the south-west with coach John Henry, is eyeing the Victorian titles at the end of February and the Australian Championships in March.
Stevens, who played football up until the age of 19 before his sister Kirsty convinced him to switch to athletics, has had a few VAL rounds under his belt and will target the 400-metres at Friendly Societies Park on Saturday.
"I've done two - one at Hastings and one in Epping - and we assault VAL to get runs under our belt, which is good training for us," he said.
"We have to chase people and it is something we don't do a lot on the synthetic track so it sets me up for when I return to the synthetic track in meets going forward."
Stevens, who is in the process of finishing his podiatry degree at La Trobe University, said he was still trying to settle back into his training but was excited by the prospect of running this weekend in Warrnambool.
"It's about getting miles under the legs and I have been working on the speed elements of my training and also the dynamic assets," the rising sprint star said.
"But I'm still trying to find my feet a little but I am quite happy where I am at and I'm looking forward to the weekend.
"It will be a good indicator of where I'm at and it's always great running in the VAL as it's competitive for me and blends in well with training.
"I believe at this point in time I'm in good shape but we will see how we go."
Stevens burst onto the international scene at the inaugural Nitro Athletics in 2017.
The speedster got to represent Team Australia against some of the world's greats, including World and Jamaican athletics legend and eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.
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