The nation’s premier junior athletes are one step closer to returning to the international scene for the World Athletics Under 20 Championships to be held in Colombia this August, gathering on the Gold Coast for a training camp last week to refine their preparations.
Having been starved of international opportunity in recent years due to COVID-19 and safety concerns, the group of 60 emerging track and field stars were served their first true taste of a high performance environment – undertaking a balance of training and education sessions as many of them prepare for the challenges that lay ahead at their first major championships.
A wide range of topics were covered by Athletics Australia staff and industry experts from sport integrity to heat and nutritional training methods, along with performing with pressure and key medical considerations, all the way down to travel tips on managing fatigue and jet lag to give the team the best chance of success in Cali.
Experienced campaigner Taylah Cruttenden (100m, 4x100m) says the camp was a good opportunity to bond with her new teammates as her long-awaited dream quickly becomes a reality in 2022.
“Getting to meet all my fellow teammates and staff and creating that team environment has been really good. Especially after missing the last two world juniors, I just had to stay positive and keep working hard because I knew the reward would eventually come,” Cruttenden said.
“It’s been great to meet new friends and getting to know people from other event groups, both in terms of their training and personally, it’s important to create that environment where everyone feels welcome and a part of the team.”
On the other end of the scale is Lachlan Kennedy who burst out of the blocks in the 4x100m as the Under 20 men set a new Australian record of 39.30 on Saturday, with the Queenslander only taking up athletics in the last 18 months and already finding himself on an Australian team.
“The stars have aligned perfectly for me. I’ve come in at the perfect time to a very competitive age group, all the boys are competition but we don’t really see it that way – we all push each other to run faster,” Kennedy said.
“I’m still processing it a bit, to be going to different countries to play a sport – kids grow up dreaming about doing that. I’m ready, I’ve trained hard, and I know I can run good times. We have a good squad with a lot of depth that can run, jump and throw some insane stuff.”
The sprinters were not the only athletes to impress at Saturday’s Gold Coast Invitational with many Australian juniors put their learning into practice as they simulated what competition day in Cali may look like, including 17-year-old Peyton Craig (1500m) who lowered his 800m best from 1:55.34 to 1:47.52 and Mackenzie Mielczarek who launched the javelin 54.28m off a short run up. Katie Gunn joined in on the action to set a new personal best in the long jump of 6.23m (+2.0).
The camp, supported by the City of Gold Coast, was completed with a Walk on Country and smoking ceremony at Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, as the team received blessings and learned more about the history of the land on which they had been training – along with enjoying dance performances, didgeridoo solos and dreamtime stories.
Emotional farewells as athletes returned to their respective states after the five-day camp demonstrated that the group are invested in each other’s success and are set to ride the highs are lows together in the coming months, with the group not scheduled to reconvene until Sydney airport in late July as they head to Miami for nine days prior to entering Colombia.
The camp in Miami will provide an opportunity for athletes to acclimatize to the hot conditions and adjust to the time zone, before flying to Colombia on July 30 with the World Athletics Under 20 Championships beginning on August 1.