Raw emotion spilled over at Queanbeyan Park as Sophie Broadhead claimed the women's Gift title less than 24 hours after one of her training partners almost died in a freak skydiving accident.
Broadhead burst into tears as she crossed the line and was embraced by her family, coach and training squad as they came to grips with the accident near Goulburn.
The tight-knit group was hit hard when news filtered through that a 14-year-old was involved in the skydiving accident that killed instructor Tony Rokov on Saturday.
Fairfax Media has chosen not to name the Canberra teenager at the family's request after he was flown to Westmead Hospital in Sydney for surgery and is being closely monitored.
Broadhead's triumph was a moment to savour and a brief reprieve from the pain felt for their mate.
But the family of the boy was never far from their minds and Broadhead, 24, dedicated her win to the training squad.
"It was tough, he was always at the front of everyone's minds today. He definitely helped me across the line," Broadhead said.
"I know he's still in hospital and he has a long way to go but I'm sure he'll be back. It was definitely motivation.
"[He] would have been so happy that everyone was here competing for him today. It would have meant everything to him and his family.
"There was a lot of emotion today and when I saw mum and dad and then [coach Dennis Goodwin], that's when it all came out."
Rokov used his body to cushion the impact on the boy as the pair fell to the ground when their tandem skydive was hampered by gusty winds.
The athletics squad had been getting updates on his condition throughout Sunday's events at the Queanbeyan Gift carnival.
Goodwin has 35 athletes in his squad aged from 10-26 and said everyone had been hit hard by news of the accident accident, in particular Broadhead as she tried to focus on the Gift title.
"It's been horrible. Really, really terrible. What the instructor did was really brave," Goodwin said.
"Everyone competed for [the 14-year-old boy] because he would have wanted them to. One of the girls couldn't stop crying [on Saturday night] and many of us had sleepless nights.
"We just pray that he's going to be OK. It's been really tough. It's a very close squad. Soph's win lifted us. She's been terrific through it all."
Gold Coast runner Aaron Stubbs won the men's event by the narrow margin of 0.04 seconds ahead of Stuart Rooke.It was her third attempt at the Queanbeyan Gift after battling shoulder problems, stress fractures and torn hamstrings in the past 12 months.
Starting with a handicap of 9.5 metres, Broadhead stormed home to cross the line in 13.6 seconds ahead of rising track star Jessica Thornton and Kiara Reddingius completed the top three.
"It's a big confidence boost because I've lacked that for the last few years, it's good motivation to get back training and aim for the national titles," Broadhead said.
"The injuries really hurt my confidence but now I'm free of those.
"I haven't really thought about what to do with the money, I guess I owe mum and dad a pretty good Christmas present."
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