Ararat’s Zoe Nicholson won her first sash at the Stawell Gift after she won the Women’s 800m handicap final on Saturday.
Nicholson won her heat by more than a second to progress to the final where she lowered her time by nearly three seconds to win the title.
Trainer Marcus Cooper said a lot of work went into preparing Nicholson for the race.
“The race was about three years in the making,” he said.
“Last year she was injured and ran with a broken foot but this year we had a clear run.
“Zoe started the season exactly how we wanted her to and we made it to Stawell in really good shape.”
Cooper said the 800m was Nicholson’s best chance of winning a sash at the Stawell Gift.
“We went there to win the 800m and once we ran the heat, we knew we were in a strong show in the final,” he said.
“In the final, she did all the work early in the race and ended up winning by about 20 metres.”
It was a strong performance from the 20-year-old with the young athlete handling the pressure during the day.
Cooper said she did everything possibly to get herself the best chance of getting the win.
“The way she went on and handled herself on the day was exceptional,” he said.
The win made it two wins for the Cooper stable after Tom Walker won the 1600m backmarkers handicap on the same day.
Cooper said it was a positive weekend for the entire team with all runners competing well across the three days.
“Riley Taylor ran really well on Saturday and Sunday,” he said.
“I was really impressed with how he ran and it should give him confidence for next year.
“The girls did not fire as much as the boys but they were all amongst it and ran really well also.”
Jacqui Scott finished second in her 400m heat and fifth in her 70m heat along with Caitlyn Nicholson who also placed fifth in her heat.
Alice Astbury finished second in her 100m heat.
Cooper singled out Angus Burns who performed consistently across the athletic carnival.
“Angus' form was strong across the weekend with a second place in the under-17 100m final the highlight,” he said.
Paddy Turner finished second in the 400m while Zach McFarlane also ran well during the weekend.