Walker celebrates hometown win

WINNER: Tom Walker crosses the finish line in the 1600m final on Saturday. Picture: Lachlan Bence

WINNER: Tom Walker crosses the finish line in the 1600m final on Saturday. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Tom Walker is still feeling the jubilation after winning his first Victorian Athletics League sash at his home meet in Stawell at the weekend.

Walker finished the 1600-metre backmarkers handicap nearly two seconds clear of his closest rival to win the final at the Stawell Gift on Saturday.

The runner said the buzz he got from winning will stay with him for a long time.

“It was the best feeling and to do it in front of the home crowd made it even more special,” he said.

“I could hear them cheering, and they all jumped the fence and gave me hugs after the race.”

"I knew what I had to do, I had a race plan and that was to get on the lead pack early,” he said.

“From there I just wanted to try and sit on them and get them to do the work for the early part of the race until I made my move late in the race.

“During the race I was feeling strong and took off with 450m left and held it together.

“I was pretty confident during the race, I felt strong and did not think about running out of gas when I made the move at the end.

“I heard before my race that I was favourite but at Stawell, anything can happen.”

Walker was favourite to win the race but had to block out the pressure before the race.

He followed up the win with an eighth place in the 3200m handicap final on Monday.

“The 1600m would have taken a bit out of me ahead of the 3200 two days earlier,” he said.

“Some of the frontmarkers started over a lap ahead of me but the guy who won was simply better.”

Walker will now take a break to let his body recover from the heavy training loads in recent months.

He has shifted his focus to making Victorian junior team for the cross country championships in Tasmania in August.

The 16-year-old will compete in the all schools cross country event in Bundoora later this year to qualify for the gruelling eight-kilometre event.

He said he was focusing on his athletic training more this year than in previous years to build on his recent athletic success.

“The next few years I will get stuck into it even more,” he said.

“This year will be my first year just training and not playing football, so that will help me continue to improve on the track.”