Teen rules duel for necklace

WONGA Park's Jessica Payne celebrated the biggest victory of her athletics career in the Women's Necklace (120m) final at Maryborough's Highland Gathering. 

The 15-year-old earned $700 and the prized necklace in the $1500 classic sponsored by Maryborough Highland Society.

Payne won the first of four heats in 14.61 seconds and went faster again to take the spoils in 14.36 seconds.

The teen raced off the 11m mark and held off the fast-finishing Karlee Bailey, 9m, and Tierra Exum, 8.

"This is the best win I have had so far," an ecstatic Payne said shortly after the presentation.

Last season she won at Braybrook and Essendon.

"My heat run today was not so good.

"By the final I was pumped," she said of the adrenalin rush from racing before a big crowd and for a prestigious prize.

The Shane McKenzie-trained athlete said her start in the final played a big part in the win.

"I was out of the blocks quickly and there was not much wind to worry about."

Last year Payne, then 14, was the youngest athlete to contest the women's 120m final at the Stawell Gift.

Those watching on in this race included parents David and Elena, and Jessica's twin, Nick.

Older siblings Nathan and Matt could not be trackside.

There were many highlights throughout the day’s athletics action which ranged from 70m up to 1600m.

The Bendigo-based John Knott stable had Dane Heiden, Greg and Kyle Hilson, Kaitlyn Bryce, Lonain Burnett and Mitchell Hocking contest finals.

Kyle Hilson was runner-up in the novice 400m.

Flora Hill's Jack Dooley won his way through to the open 200m final.

Athletes who triumphed included Nathan Riali, open 70m; David Fenollar, novice 120m; Craig Lancaster, veterans 120m; William Little, open 200m; Andrew Drummond, veterans 300m; Jessie Hart, novice 400m; Tarryn Fisher, women's 400m; Tim Earle, open 800m; Ashley Cowen, under-20 800m; Greg Whitecross, veterans and women's 1600m; and Matt Knoteschka, open 1600m.

Some of the biggest cheers of the day went up throughout the Highland Games action.

It was a supreme test of strength as competitors hurled 28-pound, 56-pound weight; put the 22-pound and 26-pound Braemar Stone, and tossed the Caber.

Overall champion was Scott Martin, gold medallist in the discus and bronze medallist in shot put at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. 

For many athletes the next leg on the VAL circuit is the Daylesford Gift on Saturday at Cricket Willow near Shepherds Flat. 

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