STAWELL- Stawell young gun Ash Cowen put in an impressive performance to claim his first sash at the Maryborough Gift meeting on News Year's Day.
The year got off to a tremendous start when Ash claimed victory in the under 20 years 800 metre final.
Running off a 45 metre handicap, Ash had plenty of ground to make up on the out-markers.
In the first lap Ash worked at a steady pace, overtaking several of his opponents and setting himself up for the final lap.
"I could hear a couple of people behind me, but halfway through the last lap, I could see the front half of the group and just gave it my all," he said.
The youngster described a feeling of elation as he broke the ribbon to cross the finish line.
"It felt like a dream, that sounds cheesy as, but it just felt great," he said.
Ash, with dedication and commitment decided he would have a quiet night in on New Year's Eve so he was in prime condition the following afternoon.
On a night where all of his friends were bringing welcoming in the new year in style, he was sitting on the couch watching movies with his Nan and Pop before venturing to Big Hill with his best mate.
Rather than opting for an alcoholic beverage the two of them watched over Stawell as they ate meat pies.
After four years of running and only two years of serious training under the watchful eye of coach Mark Hipworth, Ash's best result leading up to the Maryborough Gift was a second place at Stawell.
Hipworth is a Melbourne based coach who sets online programs to suit Ash and other athletes, enabling them to complete the training program in their home towns.
"It's hard to stay motivated when you're running on your own all the time," he said.
"It gets lonely, so if anyone wants to start running with me let me know."
Cowan will now spend some time in Queensland on holidays to freshen up the body, with serious training to resume when he gets back.
"I think the next stop is Wangaratta then there are a few more. Then it's Stawell.
"The ultimate glory would come from winning at Stawell, that's the aim, one day."
The reason Ash started running was to win a race at Stawell for his family.
His pop John Dalziel ran many times at the Stawell Easter carnival and only ever managed a third on his home turf.
John was a middle distance runner as well. Ash chose to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and has so far loved it.
Ash, who has not yet reached the age of 20, is the oldest of four children and puts his motivation and inspiration down to his family.
"It's winning for not just me, but my family. It would be great to have our name in the record books."
Although confident about his current form, Ash suggested that from here it was all about his handicap.
"Once you start winning your mark gets worse, that's the nature of running.
"It is hard starting so far behind but I don't mind the challenge."
Ash looks forward to running in front of his home crowd at the Stawell Gift carnival again in April.