Meet the fastest 14 year old in Australia, Manny Tagaloa
REMEMBER the name Emmanuel Tagaloa.
Because this 14 year old is going places - fast.
Just 18 months ago, 'Manny' was barely on the Queensland athletics radar.
Now the Carlisle Adventist Christian College student is, officially, the fastest 14 year old in Australia.
His blistering 11.30s 100m at the North Queensland Championships earlier this month broke a 36-year-old championships record, setting a new benchmark and announcing Manny to the world in style.
He eclipsed the previous mark of 11.44 set by Paul Di Bella, way back in 1984.
Di Bella, who is now the coach of number three-ranked Australian sprinter Jake Doran, was at the championships, with Doran, to watch his record run be shattered.
Manny's breakthrough time put him at the top of the Australian rankings for 2020; admittedly in a year where not all state associations have been able to host Athletics Australia compliant meets, but an incredible achievement regardless.
"Two years ago he wasn't even in the top eight in the state," Manny's coach David Lester said.
"Now he has the fastest non-wind assisted time in Australia.
"Obviously we are mindful that some states haven't been able to run competitions at that level. But there's times from Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Northern Territory … so there have been opportunities."
Manny ended his NQ Championships campaign with gold in the 100m, 200m and long jump.
At the All Schools State Championships last weekend he defended his 100m and 200m state titles, recording personal bests in both, while also claiming gold in the long jump.
Manny's 22.43s 200m ranks him second in Australia for his age group, while his 6.02m long jump is good for third-best in the country.
His wind-adjusted 11.17s 100m time was good for fifth-best in Australia this year, according to Lester.
"And he was disappointed with that because he thought he'd run below 11 seconds, before they adjusted for wind," Lester said.
In a sport as technical as athletics, where mere inches can separate the best from the also-rans, Manny's rise to the top of his field has not come about by accident.
He is as much a student of the sport as he is a proponent. Manny's incredible desire to learn and improve is one of the many things that separates him from the rest of the field.
"The kid is an absolute natural talent. But he works hard at his trade. He does everything I ask him to do and just continues to meet the goals I set for him and that he sets for himself," Lester said.
"He's very mindful of, from a technical perspective, what I want him to do and that's rare at his age to understand."
Manny's greatest learning curve came during the headline event of the NQ Championships, the Hector Hogan 100 yard Memorial Sprint, when he lined up alongside Doran at the MARC track.
The all-ages event should, realistically, be dominated by sprinters in their mid-20s, when they hit their peak.
Doran, 20, went on to win the sprint, to the surprise of nobody in attendance.
What was shocking was that Manny, 14, and clubmate Jarves Robin, 15, both made the final of the feature race.
The pair finished fifth and eighth respectively.
"The Hector Hogan was won by Jake Doran. That gives you a sense of the quality of runners they went up against," Lester said.
"To not only make the final, but finish fifth against grown men was just incredible.
"Having both Jarves and Manny make that final, against 25 year olds, 27 year olds in their peak, was incredible."
Having Doran in particular at the championships was a teaching tool Lester could not pass up.
"Once I realised he was coming and Riley (Day) was going to be there for the girls, I said 'look guys, they're coming and I want you to go against them'," the coach said.
"To run side-by-side with those professional athletes, who have sprinted against the best athletes in the world, our guys came away thinking 'I'm not that far behind them'."
Lester - and Athletics Australia - have a challenge on their hands to keep Manny in their midst.
The diehard rugby fan's goal remains to one day play for the All Blacks.
But his coach has no qualms if that is the path Manny chooses to follow. Lester's only goal is to pave the bricks at Manny's feet.
"When I sat him down (last year) I asked him 'what is your end goal in life?' and he said 'I want to play for the All Blacks'," Lester recalled.
"I told him 'you probably expect I want to hear that you want to win gold medals for Australia - I don't'.
"If that is his dream, then it's my job to help him get there."
Though after Manny's breakthrough 2020 season, Lester believes the wheel may be turning back toward athletics. Regardless of his decision, Manny has his coach - and clubmates - in his corner.
"I won't steer him. My job is to coach to get the best out of the athlete," Lester said.
"Whatever path he chooses, I'm just one of the support mechanisms to make sure he achieves his full potential.
"Certainly I would love for him to win medals for Australia and I believe he can, if he wants to.
"Time will tell. He's only 14, after all."