Sam Baird has stormed to the most important victory of his brief professional running career, claiming the Black Opal 400m in a time of 45.6 seconds, at the Bendigo Madison Carnival.
The 17-year-old ran an almost flawless race off a mark of 17 metres to triumph in Victoria's most prestigious 400m foot race.
"I can't believe it has happened. I've been setting myself for this for so long," Baird said.
"It would be pretty close to the best run I've ever had. With 100m to go I was dead last but in that last 120m I had a sudden burst of energy.
"I then started chasing the frontmarker and it just happened."
Baird's time was an improvement on his heat time of 46.7 seconds, and the 46.5 seconds he ran to win his semi final.
It was Baird's first victory in an open foot race. The Peter O'Dwyer trained runner won a novice race at Maryborough on New Year's Day.
Earlier yesterday Evan King broke a seven year drought in professional foot racing, when he won the 300m veterans handicap.
Off a mark of 18m, the 42-year-old Alfredton sprinter chased down virtually the entire field, to claim the prize in 34.96 seconds.
"It has been a long time between drinks," he admitted.
"I hoped it might had happened sooner than this. I last won a couple of 120m veterans races as a 35-year-old, so it has been quite a dry spell."
King has battled with injury since qualifying for the Stawell Gift final seven years ago.
In his heyday, King won the Maryborough Gift in 2000, and made the Stawell Gift final four times, one of only three runners to achieve that feat.