STAWELL’s Ash Cowen has celebrated back-to-back 1600-metre victories at the 2014 Stawell Gift Easter carnival on Saturday and Sunday at Central Park, Stawell.
Running at his third gift carnival, Cowen stormed home to win the 1600-metre Stawell Gift Hall of Fame Backmarkers’ Handicap on Saturday.
He finished strongly down the straight to salute in a time of 3:55:10.
Cowen said a vocal home crowd helped to get him the victory.
“It definitely got me over the line,” he said.
Cowen’s former football teammates turned out in numbers, and were waiting at the finish line post-race.
“They came from nowhere,” he said.
“They were the Stawell Warriors footy team pretty much, I used to play for them.
“It was good to have them here, it was really, really great.
“I didn’t know they were all coming actually until this morning, they said a few boys were going to come but I didn’t know that many were going to.”
The Mark Hipworth-coached athlete, who ran off a 170-metre handicap, finished ahead of Elwood’s Ian Burrows and North Balwyn’s Joel Donnar.
He said knowledge of the Central Park track had been a boost.
“The amount of times I’ve run around that bend in training, it was definitely an advantage,” Cowen said.
The 19-year-old backed up his initial performance yesterday, winning the 1600-metre Victory Restricted final despite starting as the backmarker.
Cowen secured victory in a time of 4:07:90, finishing almost two seconds clear of second-placed Rilyn Mosbey.
“I was quietly confident, but you never know what can happen in those kind of races,” he said.
“I felt terrible after that first lap, but I soldiered on and they eventually came back to me.
“I got to the last person with about 200 metres to go, got around them and that was pretty much it.”
The Stawell athlete – who will race once more today – thanked his coach, grandfather John Dalziel and uncle Wayne Dalziel for their help preparing him for the carnival.