WORLD youth championships competitor Sam Baird won the Australian 400m Professional Title in Devonport last night.
Baird, the Australian under-18 400m champion, topped the $5000 race in 48.28 seconds, edging out Australian 800m champion Andrew Baird (49.10) and 2009 world university games 4x400m gold medallist Clay Watkins.
The race was the highlight event on the second night of the Tasmanian Athletic League’s Devonport carnival.
In a tough field, entry in the Australian 400m Professional Title demands a personal best under 50 seconds over the distance with only the top-six credentialled athletes accepted.
“It feels pretty good – to be invited to come interstate and race, then come away with a win in such a great atmosphere is fantastic,” Baird told The Courier last night.
“The atmosphere is incredible, it’s like the whole Devonport population turned out here and the community loved it.
“We all wanted to run well.”
Baird says he was nervous lining up in such a high-calibre field.
He was happy with his efforts in the showdown, which continues his comeback this month from a hamstring tear and said the hit-out on a good grass surface would set him in good stead for a big season ahead.
There is little reprieve for Baird, who will return to Victoria for tomorrow’s Maryborough Gift meet at Princes Park.
His coach Peter O’Dwyer confirmed Baird would run a 400m handicap at Maryborough and, while he has entered the Gift field, was yet to determine whether Baird would contest the 120m handicap.
The Ballarat teenager’s main focus is on a steady training period.
He has big goals ahead, tough goals, primarily the junior and open nationals in March, which double as Commonwealth Games selection.
Baird’s marks in Maryborough are tight, but he was keen to test how hard he could chase down his rivals.
Baird just had a taste of the Victorian Athletic League circuit last season, winning the prestigious Black Opal 400m in Bendigo.
He then went on to claim his national junior title and represent Australia at the IAAF Youth World Championships in the Ukraine where he was a 400m finalist.
Baird helped lead the Ballarat Grammar campaign in the Australian Schools Knockout final, a teams event, in Townsville earlier this month.
*Meanwhile, stablemate Nick Milton won the open 400m final in the Victorian Athletic League’s Ararat Gift meet yesterday.