Awaba runner Luke Young steps back in distance but steps up to win ninth junior national gold

IN STRIDE: Awaba middle-distance runner Luke Young won the Under 20's 800m at the Australian Athletics Championships held last week at Sydney Olympic Park.
IN STRIDE: Awaba middle-distance runner Luke Young won the Under 20's 800m at the Australian Athletics Championships held last week at Sydney Olympic Park.

AWABA runner Luke Young won his ninth national gold medal at last week's Australian Athletics Championships but this year it wasn't in his pet event. 

The middle-distance runner switched his focus this season from the 1500m to the 800m in an effort to develop his speed. 

He ran a 1:50.01 in the 800m final of the Under-20 age group, a division he was competing in despite being 17 years of age. 

"A 1500 [metre] runner has to have a good amount of speed, and the 800 has a lot more speed," Young said. 

"I haven't ran 800s in a couple of years, so we decided to really focus on the 800s and get that time down - and we've done that." 

Young said he was stoked to have won the junior race, but he was a little disappointed to have missed the final of the open mens 1500m.

WINNER: Young on the podium in Sydney.

WINNER: Young on the podium in Sydney.

"I'd run NSW opens before, but it was a big step up into opens nationals," he said. 

"It was really tough, even tougher than I thought.

"I [thought] I could get through to the final and be pretty comfy with that, but I wasn't feeling it in the heat and couldn't keep up with them." 

Young missed qualifying for the final by 0.4 seconds. 

"I was a bit nervous, as you always are before a race," he said.

"Especially an opens race, it's really intimidating as a junior stepping up to the opens races because you kind of respect the guys and none of them really show any respect for you." 

It's really intimidating as a junior stepping up to the opens races because you kind of respect the guys and none of them really show any respect for you.

- Luke Young, 17

He said he would still take plenty away from his first open-age race at national level. 

"It's a huge learning experience," he said. "Transitioning up to there will do a lot. It's just confidence really, building confidence in the opens races."  

Young credited his training partner Jesse Maxwell, who is the son of his coach Jason Maxwell, for helping him maintain consistent improvement.   

"He's a bit faster in speed work and I'm a little bit more aerobically based," Young said. 

"It's good balance in training because we push each other for both the different things. 

"I feel like I'm really lucky, not many people have such a good training partner. Jesse's a really good mate too, you couldn't ask for much more."

The coach took the runners to Falls Creek over summer for four weeks of high-altitude training, which Young said had helped him run two PB's at the start of the season.

Maxwell said Young's focus would soon move to the 2020 IAAF World U20 Championships, which are being held next July in Nairobi, Kenya.

"This kid is enormously talented," Maxwell said.

"You look at [1500m Olympian] Ryan Gregson, and he is running similar times to Gregson at his age.

"If he can keep it together ... well he is certainly the fastest junior in the country by a long way over 1500 metres."

Meanwhile, Ashlyn Blackstock won gold in both the U/16 discus and shot put events.

Keira Mcgregor also won gold in the U/14's 4 x 100m, Ella Osborne took silver in the U/16's Para 400m, Montana Monk bronze in the U/16's 800m and Torrie Lewis bronze in the U/15's 400m.

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