North Mackay Little Athletics member, Katie Lester bursts out of the blocks.
North Mackay Little Athletics member, Katie Lester bursts out of the blocks.

Athletics ‘moving into a new era’ as records keep falling

MACKAY athletics is on the cusp of something special, as our young athletes continue to hit high watermarks at a regional, state and even national level.

Approaching the end of a 2020 season that nearly never was, North Mackay Athletics coach David Lester said the club had actually exceeded all expectations of even a non-coronavirus affected year.

The club has grown from 80-odd members in 2019 to almost 150. Dozens signed on even as coronavirus concerns spiked and the threat of a complete cancellation of events loomed.

The reason for the membership boom, Lester believes, is a combination of consistent, committed administration, quality coaching and pathways, and some online ingenuity.

When the call to quarantine first came down, NMA moved swiftly to build the Athletics At Home Program.

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Through the club's various social media channels, athletes were given near-daily instruction.

Skills, drills and skill acquisition games became readily available through computer, tablet or phone. The program not only kept the core membership base engaged and on track with their fitness and technique goals, it also attracted new faces.

“When we realised we couldn’t have any contact (with the athletes) we put that program together,” Lester said.

“We actually grew our membership base during COVID. We were signing people up because they saw what we were offering on our social media platforms.”

The at-home training program fast-tracked our local athletes and gave them a leg-up on their rivals once competition resumed.

It amounted to records tumbling by the dozen, Lester said, with club benchmarks broken each week and even regional and state times topped.

North Mackay Little Athletics coach David Lester (left) with rising track and field star Emmanuel Tagaloa, 14.
North Mackay Little Athletics coach David Lester (left) with rising track and field star Emmanuel Tagaloa, 14.

“The amount of records broken just locally at our club this year … I can’t wait to see the numbers when we get to counting at the AGM. It’s probably been our best-ever year, even though COVID hit. Remarkable,” Lester said.

At the northern regional athletics championships held at the Mackay Aquatic Recreation Centre in September, NMA athletes set an incredible 14 meet records and qualified for the 2021 State Titles.

Emmanuel Tagaloa became the fastest 14 year old in Australia when he broke a 36-year-old 100m record at the North Queensland Championships earlier this month.

He and clubmate Jarves Robin, 15, both blitzed the field in their respective age groups to take out the 100m and 200m events.

“Our kids came out and broke records that, again, were 20 (and) 18-odd years old,” Lester said.

“And that’s just the records that were broken. That’s not even considering all the PBs that our kids achieved.”

Once the club’s incredible season comes to a close at the twilight meet on November 28, Lester said those involved would finally be able to sit back and truly grasp how good a year it had been, despite all the hurdles.

It led Lester to declare the sport is “moving into a new era” in Mackay.

“I’ve been working hard for the past eight years to get to the point where someone can ask me, ‘are we getting there?’,” Lester said.

“Absolutely we are. We’ve gone through a lot of change and now we have the platforms, the coaching, the numbers and the organisational support on board.

“Athletic performance is improving as we can see by the results. Committee-wise and membership-wise we’re going from strength to strength. And the local support is fantastic.”

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