Moruya High School student Jaylah Hancock-Cameron has given herself every chance to compete in the 2018 Youth Olympics after a successful meet at the Oceania Melanesian Regional Championships in Port Vila.
Hancock-Cameron came second in the 800m, before winning the 1500m. Her 1500m time of 4:21.72 was fast enough to be under the qualifying time for the Youth Olympics.
Possibly more impressive is the fact Jaylah won her race by more than a minute, and would have won the senior race by 25 seconds.
It is now up to Australian selectors to decide whether Jaylah will get her shot in Buenos Aires.
Jaylah said the 1500m race was challenging, but she had a clear plan to achieve her goal.
“We set splits for every 200 metres around the track, and I just had to try and hit them,” she said.
Jaylah now will wait to see whether she has qualified.
“I’ve already done the criteria for the Youth Olympics,” she said.
“They’ll be announcing the team in the next two weeks, so fingers crossed I get in.”
Jaylah’s coach, Andae Kalemusic, said she was worried Jaylah wouldn’t run under the qualifying time when her main competition was forced to withdraw from the event.
“The 1500m is a really hard one to race by herself,” Kalemusic said. “She’s not usually a front runner, she usually sits back because of her kick.
“To do it from the front showed me how strong she is.”
Jaylah’s time was two seconds off her personal best, but when combined with her performance at the Australian Nationals, it should be enough to qualify for Buenos Aires.
“Over the last season she’s done four Olympic youth qualifiers,” Kalemusic said.
“Only first from nationals gets to go to the Olympics. She got beaten in the 800m in the under 18s even though she would have broken the meet record.
“1500 isn’t her favourite event, but it was her last attempt to qualify. She happened to win it with a five second PB.
“She won the nationals, she’s done the two qualifiers now on her own. It’s hard to keep that kind of form out.”
Kalemusic said if Jaylah does qualify for the Youth Olympics, it will be well deserved.
“It’s been a lot of hard training,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realise how much work she puts it.
“We travel to Sydney a lot for day trips. On the big events we go up the day before, but for smaller events we go up and back in one day, and won’t get back until 1am.
“She’s a star, but she works very hard. She does all the one-percenters like stretching and eating. She sacrifices a lot to be where she is, and it’s now starting to pay off.”
She said Jaylah wouldn’t be where she is without the support of those close to her.
“It’s a team effort,” she said. “Her mum does a lot for her, without her mum doing what she does, she wouldn’t be where she is.
“It’s good that the community is supporting her as well.”
Kalemusic believes Jaylah could feature at the Commonwealth or Olympic Games in the future if her current career arc continues.
“She hasn’t been beaten in her own age for a year and a half,” Kalemusic said.
“It’s hard because everyone’s after you. Once you’re at the top, you have to train like you’re not at the top to stay there.
“She’s only at 15, but she’s only eight seconds off the Commonwealth Games qualifying time. The 1500 metres isn’t an event we’d worked on, but that might be the direction we go in.”