ARARAT - Ararat athlete Sarah Blizzard could be headed for bigger and better things following her stunning performance in Monday's final of the State of Victoria Strickland Family 120m Women's Gift at Stawell.
Blizzard was the best performed of the local athletes from the Marcus Cooper Stable, finishing runner-up in the $6000 feature event at the Australia Post Stawell Gift carnival, just behind Ballarat's Holly Dobbyn.
To make it through to the final the 17-year-old defied the odds and defeated quality opposition beginning in the heats on Easter Saturday.
"Looking at the draw first up she had Kate Jones and Kendra Hubbard, two quality runners and Kate was starting a good metre in front of her and she was one of the favourites," Blizzard's coach Marcus Cooper said.
"I just said you've got to treat this like a final and she did exactly that."
Blizzard followed her instructions to a tee, getting away to a brilliant start to over take a number of frontmarkers, before passing Jones right on the finish line to win in a time of 13.59s.
Cooper said his stable star ran the perfect race.
"We had the fastest time all the way through to the very last heat where Holly Dobbyn was in that," he said.
"When we saw her run I thought straight away she is clearly the one to beat, her leg speed was really good."
Having already won her heat of the 70-metre Open event earlier that day Blizzard had to return to Stawell for the 70 semi finals on Sunday.
Cooper said it was hard to keep her focused on the 70m, with Blizzard eventually finishing in sixth position.
The Marian College student shrugged off the disappointment because there were bigger fish to fry and she had to opportunity to do what all athletes on the Victorian Athletic League circuit dream of doing - run at Central Park on Easter Monday, the third and final day of the prestigious carnival.
Cooper said Blizzard was quite nervous leading up to her semi final, which was broadcast live around Australia.
"Her start in the semis wasn't that strong, she had to fight her way for that first 60 metres to get free," he said.
"Once she got free and the shackles broke off, she just blew them away and was a clear winner."
Blizzard's semi final time was 13.70, slightly slower than her heat race, which Cooper put down to nerves and the swirling wind around the track.
It was enough however enough to qualify for the biggest race of her.
"My instructions in the final were to just go flat out at the start and nail it, relax during the middle and then bring it home," Cooper said.
"What I could see, she nailed the start. I reckon she got in front of Kate, then Holly was only starting just behind Sarah and she got onto her early and just edged in front, which got Sarah going again.
"With about 20-30m out where I was standing, Sarah came back at her and actually got level again and I thought she is going to win this, but Holly just picked up again over the last 10 metres and gapped her.
"Those two were clearly out the front. To Holly's credit, well done.
"Sarah, I just can't give her enough praise - she just stood up when it counted."
Cooper said after freshening the Blizzard up prior to the Bendigo Gift meeting and seeing her run so well to salute in that Women's Gift, he devised a plan to keep her fresh leading into the final VAL event of the season.
During the six weeks that followed Cooper put Blizzard through the same program which led him to victory in the final of the 100-metre Veteran's in 2009.
"I hadn't done that program since 2009, but we gave it a crack and the proof is in the pudding," Cooper said.
"It knocks you about, really high end stuff."
Season started strongly with victory in the 300m Women's and Veterans in December, before having her toe operated on which sidelined her during the Ararat and Maryborough Gift meetings.
Cooper said the forced break lit the fire even more in Blizzard's belly.
"She came back after her operation and had one training before winning the St Albans Women's Gift and the penny dropped for me there and then - Sarah needs rest to perform at her best," he said.
Blizzard has finished the VAL 2013/14 season with three winner's sashes, a prized placing at Stawell and countless other finals appearances.
The benchmark has now been set very high and Cooper is starting to think beyond the local gift meetings for his prot g e.
"We've got our eyes on bigger goals, but we already had done that before Stawell," Cooper said.
"Look out armatures, we will have a little bit of a go at that and see how far we can get Sarah.
"We are probably looking at two to three year plan. This year you've got the Commonwealth Games and I'm thinking we are going to have a go at some big stuff in a few years' time."