No hurdle too great for young athlete
IPSWICH City junior sportsperson of the year nominee Aidan Cusworth has his sights set on the IAAF World Under-20 Championships to be held at Nairobi in Kenya next year.
To earn a place on the blocks, the Pine Mountain resident, who won gold in the under-18 400 and 100m hurdles at the Oceania Athletics Championships, must meet an international qualifying standard based on this year's results.
He expects that time to be faster than he has ever rounded the track before but is confident he will shave the necessary seconds off his personal best mark.
Adding difficulty to his task, the 17-year-old must compete in an untried class, with the hurdles raised from 84 to 91cm.
The dedicated athlete has been working tirelessly in training to adapt to the increased height and is hopeful his commitment to perfection will pay dividends at the World Championship trials.
"Hopefully, with all of the hard work I make it," he said.
"My coach reckons I am a top four chance. It (the height) is not that much different. I am confident of handling the height, I just need to get my flat speed down in order to get the time."
Ipswich Grammar student Cusworth trains with a stable of quality athletes known as Athletics Pathways under the astute guidance of experienced coach Dianne Shepherd at the school's fields and Limestone Park.
He has been involved with the GPS track and field team since year seven, though Cusworth's formative years in the sport were not littered with gold. He had to struggle, push through disappointment and overcome adversity before his breakout season last year when he finished second at the state championships.
He attributes his stunning rise through the ranks to the exceptional program at IGS and the teammates which he trains alongside who drive him to break through the pain barrier.
Those colleagues will have a vital role to play in the lead-up to the World Championships as Cusworth searches for additional pace.
"I've got some people in my squad who run a really fast flat 400m, so I've been working with them to improve my ground speed and build endurance," he said.
Cusworth will move into senior next year. He is hopeful of being named Track and Field captain but that is far from his priority.
"I'm not worried about being captain," he said.
"I just want to compete well and make my school proud."
Cusworth said taking part in the Oceania Championships was an extraordinary experience and a great opportunity to meet people and learn about foreign cultures.
He said on the final night of competition all of the athletes attended a ceremonial dinner, which featured a number of cultural displays.
"It was a great atmosphere," he said.
"It was really good to be around all of the athletes. Everyone was joining in and having fun."
Despite bagging two gold medals, the purist was less than satisfied with his performances at the event held in Townsville in late-June.
Hampered by the tropical heat, his times were fractionally slower than what he knows he is capable of producing. In April, he won bronze in the 110m hurdles and gold in the 400m hurdle at the Australian Championships. His time of 53.09 for the 400m was faster than the 53.56 he ran in North Queensland.
But Cusworth will not dwell as he aspires to rise to the sport's professional stratosphere. He is taking it one step at a time but if he continues to set such lofty standards for himself, there is every chance he will light up the world stage in years to come.
His focus will now turn to ensuring IGS returns to the top of the prestigious GPS track and field competition.