Baird runs personal best at Albert Park

SAM Baird says he was itching for his race to get underway the moment he stepped on the track at Albert Park.

The sun was burning up and not much fun, but conditions were still – perfect for running.

Baird was firing and clocked a world junior qualifying time with a personal best of 46.78 seconds in the High Velocity Club meet on Saturday.

The Ballarat teenager is vying for a spot in the Australian squad for the IAAF World Junior Championships, for athletes aged under-20, in Eugene, Oregon in the United States this July.

His performance comes a week after narrowly missing a sub-47 second run in Ballarat for the Victorian Country Track and Field Championships.

“I figured because I just missed out (on world junior qualification) in poor conditions in Ballarat that I could do it – I had a bit of a better field, the (state’s) best track and thought I’d see what would happen,” Baird said.

Baird is building stellar form leading into next month’s Australian junior and open track and field championships, which double as Commonwealth Games selections.

He has a busy and challenging schedule to work through first, starting with the Ballarat Gift carnival at Eastern Oval this coming weekend.

The Victorian juniors at Albert Park will follow and the possibility of an Athletics Australia grand prix meet – Baird is particularly keen for a chance to race in Perth on February 22 in a field that will feature reigning world 400m champion LaShawn Merrit, just for the thrill of lining up with the American.

While the Commonwealth Games is a goal, Baird is more focused on the work he has before junior nationals in Sydney and open nationals in Melbourne.

“Realistically, it’s hard enough for elite, open-age athletes to make the Commonwealth Games team. I will feel privileged enough to make the world junior team,” Baird said.

“Progression-wise and in my times, I want to keep improving and I’ve got a solid six or seven races before nationals.

“I want to get in solid training in that time, too.”

A return to school has helped Baird re-establish his routine, and he said Ballarat Grammar had been really supportive in his athletic pursuits while he starts year 12 studies.

It follows a bumper year last year, in which the Peter O’Dwyer-coached athlete won the Australian under-18 400m crown, a title he claimed last year to help seal a spot at the IAAF Youth World Championships (for under-18s) in the Ukraine where he was 400m finalist.

POD Squad stablemate Liam Procaccino (400m) and Holly Dobbyn (200m) were also in solid form in the HVC meet.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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