ARARAT - The accolades keep coming for the Marcus Cooper Athletic Stable with two of its athletes up for major awards at the Victorian Runners and Trainers Association end of season presentation night.
Sarah Blizzard, who finished second in the final of the prestigious 120m Women's Gift at the Stawell carnival last month, is up for Female Performance of the Year, while Marcus Cooper is nominated for Coach of the Year following a successful 2013/14 Victorian Athletic League season.
Cooper said to receive two nominations is a massive achievement, considering selection is based on points accumulated during the year.
"We run at a lot of meetings but there are a lot we can't get to as well, like Thursday or Friday night ones which the Melbourne runners go in, so they are getting points all the time," he said.
"It is really hard for us to win it, but just to be nominated is an awesome thing. It just tops off a fantastic year."
Blizzard finished the VAL season with three winners' sashes at Bendigo (120m), St Albans (120m) and Northcote (300m), along with a prized podium finish in Stawell and numerous other finals' appearances.
Cooper said the 17-year-old has come along way, from a kid with an awkward running style to be one of six up for the top female award and all this in just four seasons.
"When she first started she was just this teeny weeny little girl and I thought my god I don't know if she is ever going to make it as a runner," he said.
"She had this different starting style and overall running action, it has taken a long time to sort it out and get to where she is now.
"I can't believe how strong she is now and how perfect she looks in her running action it is a real credit to her for never giving up.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg for Sarah, I think she is going to go a long way."
Cooper said he and Blizzard got the opportunity following the Stawell Gift to sit down and have a 'heart to heart'.
"It was really good to be able to just talk to her about what she wanted to achieve going forward," he said.
"I got a lot out of it and I just can't wait to see how we go, but she is just one person I have to look after (in the stable) and I also can't wait to look after say Ben Boatman he's only just started and there's so much potential that we can tap into.
"Then there's Zoe Nicholson and the improvement she's shown and I could go through everyone, they all have shown something.
"It is all about how you get the best out of each person."
It is that attitude that has seen Cooper also nominated for Coach of the Year.
Cooper said he first got into running while he was a student at the Ararat Tech School, where teacher Kevin Maple encouraged him to run during lunch times.
Eventually he trained under local identity Jim Pearce as a teenager, who he said taught him the trade.
After spending time training with stables in Ballarat under Michael Benoit and Robbie Leehman he trained by himself for a while back in Ararat before receiving a call from Marian College teacher Paul McLoughlin asking whether he would be interested in coaching one of his students, Simon Menz.
"That was where it all started, I can still remember the first training that we did I was lucky to keep up with him!" Cooper said.
"We went from there and I think Menzy and I had a full season by ourselves and then the Boatmans came along, then the Blizzards and it just grew."
Cooper said the nomination was good recognition of the stable's achievements this year.
"I am extremely proud and excited," he said.
"The guys that I coach against, there are some bloody good coaches out there and they know their stuff.
"I guess the most enjoyable thing is passing on what I have learnt over the many years and seeing improvement, not just the young ones but the older people that come along to train and compete as well."
The VRTA presentation night will be held in Melbourne on May 24.