Melissa Breen ready for challenge

Australia's fastest female sprinter Melissa Breen will challenge the men when she lines up in the Australia Post Stawell Gift.

Breen, 23, broke Melinda Gainsford-Taylor's 20-year-old national 100m record when she ran 11.11 seconds in her heat at the ACT Championships in February.

If Breen makes it through the heats, it will be the first time in the 133-year history of the event that a woman will run in the semi-finals of Australia's richest short distance footrace.

"I love coming to Stawell and this year I am keen to challenge myself against the men," Breen said.

"Running the Australian record gives me great confidence to try and do something no female has ever done and that's make the semis."

In 2012 Breen was the first woman to ever win the State of Victoria Strickland Family Women's Gift off scratch. Off the track she also took home the 2012 Driscoll McIllree and Dickinson Fashions on the Field.

"Ever since I first ventured down to Stawell in 2009, I have been in love with it. It is really the only sprinting event shown live on TV and it boasts so many different aspects that ensure huge excitement for the athlete and spectator," Breen said.

"The mystery and secrecy about who is primed and ready to win and then watching it unfold over the four days is fascinating. There is so much more to the Stawell Gift than the racing too. I love being involved in the Fashions on the Field and kids clinic."

More than 1650 athletes have registered to compete in the 2014 Australia Post Stawell Gift, an increase of 100 entries over last year.

Stawell Athletic Club president Jeremy Irvine said the increase in registered athletes illustrated the event was continuing to grow in popularity and remained integral to athletics in Australia.

Minister for Sport and Recreation, Damian Drum, said he was excited about the Easter long weekend event.

"The Victorian Coalition Government committed to supporting and growing the Stawell Gift in 2010, $600,000 has since been contributed to the event and we have seen it prosper ever since."

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