Grassmere's Aubery Watson is ready to fly the family name at this weekend's Warrnambool and Terang gifts.
With older sister Layla, the reigning two-time Warrnambool women's gift winner, to miss the double-header with hamstring soreness, Aubery said she would turn coach-supporter for the weekend.
"She hasn't had too many tips, just run fast," Aubery said with a laugh. "(Staying) relaxed and controlled, she likes to say that."
Watson is one of four DPS stable runners preparing for the men's and women's 120m gifts at Warrnambool and Terang on December 2-3, alongside teammates Josh McGlade, Grace Carter and Hannah McMeel.
The 16-year-old, who has a 7.75m handicap, is growing in confidence after qualifying for his maiden gift final at Mount Gambier on November 25.
It came after a self-admitted slow start to the 2023-24 Victorian Athletics League season, with Watson believing he hadn't yet hit the heights seen when he ran third in the final of the 70m men's open final at Stawell in April.
He knows making a final puts him in elite company, which motivates him further.
"A fair few of the boys coming down would have made Stawell Gift finals," he said.
Watson, who called DPS "more of a family than a squad", is excited to see what his teammates can achieve across the weekend, highlighting Paddy Meade as one to watch.
"He's in good form, I reckon he might win the under 18s this weekend, he's got a pretty handy mark," he said.
Flying the flag in the women's gift is Carter, 17 and McMeel, 14, who will both vie to make it four-straight years a south-west runner has won the race, after Grace Kelly and Layla Watson.
Carter, who will start off 10.5m, has been in blistering form to start the season, winning her first women's gift final at Mortlake last month. She's also finished top four in all six of her finals across the 120m, 70m or 200m distances at Essendon, Geelong and Maryborough.
"(Coaches) Wayne (Perry) and Rob (Duynhoven) and DPS have helped me a lot," she said. "Definitely making the finals each week is giving me a lot of confidence."
Meanwhile, McMeel, who has a handicap of 6m, is in her first season racing in the women's 120-metre gifts.
"It's been crazy but a great experience because I get to race against so many people who have such good ability," she said.
McMeel, who started racing at 11, will also contest the under-18 120m and two 300m races at Warrnambool, while she will be a keen on-looker during the Jayne McMeel Vase - a 300m race for over 35s - named in honour of her late mum.
"I love that they have that for her," she said.
McMeel said it was special to have dad Carl and brother Leo as teammates at DPS, with the latter picking up wins in the under 14 120m and 300m at Mount Gambier last weekend.
"He did, that was cool, he was really stoked, we were all stoked for him," she said.
- The Warrnambool Gift begins 10.30am at Reid Oval, with the men's final at 3.55pm followed by the women's final at 4.05pm.