STAWELL - A long time dream of achieving success at Stawell became a reality, not once, but twice for young Stawell distance runner Ash Cowen, at the Stawell Gift carnival.
Cowen took to the Central Park track mid afternoon on Easter Saturday for the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame Backmarkers 1600 metres, the first event of his three races for the carnival.
"I was nervous leading into the event," Cowen said.
"Each year you are just shocked by the amount of people who come to watch."
Cowen gave himself little hope of winning the open event, but liked his chances more in the novice event that was to be held later in the weekend.
Cowen ran off a handicap of 170 metres, which was a good mark for the youngster.
"It is always nice to see what is in front of you and then the people behind keep you honest," Cowen said.
With his uncle Wayne Dalziel and grandfather John Dalziel watching on, it was sure to be an emotional finish for the 19-year-old.
Cowen made his move early minimising the gap between himself and the frontmarker before taking the lead just metres into the final lap.
With Cowen leading into the straight a win was almost secured with his home crowd urging him to the line.
There were tears of joy from everyone around Cowen, as family, friends and fellow members of trainer Mark Hipworth's stable made their way to the centre of the track.
Cowen, who was obviously exhausted, was just trying to take it all in.
"It's such a strange feeling," Cowen said.
"I don't know what to think."
Cowen finished the race with a time of 3.55.1 to win narrowly from Ian Burrows.
Cowen has had a tough task for the past couple of years, doing the majority of the training on his own.
Mark Hipworth has several runners that come together for training three to four times a week, while Cowen is sent his training program to complete by himself.
"It is tough at times, but it's paid off," he said.
Hipworth had an excellent Stawell Gift carnival as coach especially over the middle distance events.
Cowen, who is very much a family orientated youngster, dedicated his win to his uncle and grandfather who had each raced several times at Stawell and were unsuccessful in getting a sash of their own.
"I couldn't be happier to win, not just for me, but for my whole family," Cowen said.
"Coming around that last bend was ridiculous.
"The amount of times I've run around that bend in training, it was definitely an advantage."
The youngster had incredible support from the Stawell community and that became evident when he crossed the line.
Cowen continued his rich form when he competed in the Victory Restricted 1600 metres event on Sunday.
After winning on the Saturday he was pulled a further 35 metres, bringing him back to a handicap of 100 metres, equal to the backmarker in the event.
This race looked far too easy for Cowen though, as he pulled away with 200 metres to go, giving him his second victory of the carnival. He received a similar victory response to that of the previous day.