BALLARAT’S Samuel Baird last night announced himself as an athletics star of the future by winning the coveted 400m Black Opal at the Tom Flood Sports Centre.
Starting off the 17m mark, Baird mowed down hometown hope Jack Dooley on the line to win the biggest race of his short six-month career.
“Being one of the backmarkers, I knew that if I was going to win, it was going to be in the last 10 to 20 metres,” Baird said.
“I just hoped to time my run perfectly and take it from there.
“It was an exceptional field of runners and definitely the hardest 400m I’ve run.
“Winning this is absolutely massive. I only started training for athletics back in October last year, so for something like this to happen so quickly is just awesome.”
Baird, 17, is a member of Peter O’Dwyer’s POD Squad and had a large contingent of support make the trip to Bendigo for the race.
“I feel so privileged just to have made the final, let alone win it,” Baird said.
“Peter is a fantastic trainer and has trained some exceptional runners.
I’m just thrilled to win it... it’s an amazing feeling.”
● Try as they might, rivals could not catch Megan McMahon as she led from start to finish to win the Flack Advisory Black Pearl women’s 400m final on Saturday night.
The 22-year-old raced off the 50m mark and sprinted to a stunning victory in 53.56 seconds.
“This is my first time racing at Bendigo and is the biggest win of my career,” an elated McMahon said as she stood near trainer Terry McGarity and training partners.
McMahon said the key in the final was to focus on what was in front, and not worry about the chasing pack which included Junortoun’s Kirrily Burnett (40m).
“The crowd really helped me along, especially the longer finishing straight,” McMahon said.
Her lead-up to the Bendigo carnival included winning the 400m at Rye in January, the 400m at Keilor, and last weekend’s women’s-veterans 300m at St Bernard’s in Essendon.
McMahon not only pocketed the cash, but was also presented with a Black Pearl necklace courtesy of McLachlan Studio in Deloraine, Tasmania.