Canberra 16-year-old Keely Small puts school on hold for Commonwealth Games trials

Most 16-year-olds worry about homework. Keely Small's assignment this week, however, might be the toughest of all.

The Canberra teenager will attempt to block out all of the hype, excitement, nerves and hope of being within touching distance of a Commonwealth Games dream.

The year 11 St Clare's College student has taken a week off school to focus all of her energy into chasing the 800 metres national championship title on the Gold Coast this weekend.

"But I just want to get out there, treat it like a training session and have fun," Small said.

"I want to make the Commonwealth Games team, there's no question about that. But at the same time I know I'm still 16.

"I have expectations because I know what I'm capable of and I want to get out there and do my best. But the biggest thing is to be happy with my run and to just enjoy it.


"I've had a few runs recently where I think I've let the pressure get to me too much. I learnt from those races and I know if I enjoy it, not worry about it, I'll be able to pull something out."

Small is part of a 43-strong Canberra team at the four-day national titles, which start on Thursday.

The championships have the added bonus this year of doubling as a Commonwealth Games selection trial, with Athletics Australia officials to meet afterwards and pick the 111 athletes to compete in April.

Small is without doubt one of the rising stars of Australia athletics. She clocked a remarkable time of 2:01.46 minutes last year to be the fastest under-18 female in the world.

It put her just 0.46 seconds outside the Commonwealth Games A qualifying time and a strong run on the Gold Coast this weekend would make her an irresistible selection option.

Huge run from 15-year-old Keely Small in Canberra

"This is ridiculous!" Have we unearthed a new middle distance star? Brilliant run from 15-year-old Canberran Keely Small in the 800m in 2:01.46 to break Georgia Clarke's Under 18 national record. #SUMMERofATHS

Posted by Athletics Australia on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Small's first test will be in the heats on Friday with the finals to be held on Sunday.

She spent two weeks training at altitude at Perisher at the end of last year, running mountain trails and up Mt Kosciusko with her running group and coach Philo Saunders.

"I'm definitely fitter after that. It's not that high, but it was something extra for training," Small said.

"I've got time off from school this week. I'm in year 11 and it's a bit hectic, but the school has been really good to give me time off and to help me get back on top of it when I get back.

"It's not that I needed to focus on the race the week, just that I didn't want to use energy in other areas when I need to focus on running.

"Hopefully I'm right there at the end and I'll put myself in a position to win it."

Georgia Griffith looms as Small's toughest competitor and already has secured an A-qualifier. But three-time Australian 800 metre champion Brittany McGowan will also be hard to beat.