SAM Baird has run his way into the World Youth Track and Field Championships in the Ukraine in July.
Ballarat’s newest young athletic star secured a berth in the Australian team with a 400-metre qualifying time in the Perth Track Classic on Saturday.
Needing to run a second sub- 48.2-second to seal a trip to Donetsk on July 10-14, the 17-year-old smashed his personal best – set only three days earlier – with a 47.29 in finishing fourth to Sudan’s Yousif Raban.
The National Athletic Series meet was Baird’s last opportunity to get the time, with Australian Athletics setting yesterday as the deadline for selection.
He received an invitation to run in the classic after winning the national under-18 title in a personal best 47.78 at the Australian junior championships on Perth on Wednesday – a performance that put him in contention for the national youth team.
Baird told The Courier from Perth yesterday that he was stunned with his performance at the classic.
“It’s still sinking in,” he said as prepared for a late flight home.
Baird said he went into the Perth Track Classic with an open mind.
“It was a privilege just to get a chance to run against Australia’s best.”
“I had nothing to lose. I thought I’d run dead last,” he said.
“I was over the moon to finish fourth and then I saw my time.”
The classic capped off a massive week for Baird, who is coached by Peter O’Dwyer and is a year 11 student at Ballarat Grammar School.
In what has been nothing short of a meteoric rise, it was his seventh run in as many days, with three including his Black Opal 400m victory at Bendigo, 400m heat and final and 4x400m relay at the national junior championships and then the classic.
Baird said he was still coming to terms with the events of the week.
He said winning at Bendigo had been a big boost going to the nationals.
“The time suggested I might be a chance for a podium.”
Baird said he did not feel pressure ahead of the national juniors.
He said it was an opportunity to see where he was on the national stage, knowing that if he produced something special there would be an opportunity for bigger things down the track.
Baird believed he had a chance to run the youth qualifying time, but had not expected to break 48 seconds at the nationals.
“I hadn’t set my expectations too high, I was pretty shocked.”
But it was nothing like the surprise he felt after his 47.29.
“I’ve never had such a big week in my life – with the number of races and the intensity.
“ I didn’t know how my condition would hold up.”
O’Dwyer said Baird would now prepare for his first debut at the Stawell Gift Easter Carnival, where he is likely to contest the backmarkers’ 400m handicap and 550m.
This will be Baird’s first visit to the Stawell Gift meet in any capacity.