Walking for glory

Riley Coughlan. Pictures supplied

Tara Murray

Sunbury’s Riley Coughlan has taken the next step with his athletics career having qualified for his first national championship.

The teenager will be walking for gold at the Australian Track and and Field Championships later this month, after a strong performance at the Athletics Victoria State Championships a couple of weeks ago.

He finished in second spot, four seconds behind the winner Liam Hutchins. Both boys have qualified for the national titles.

Having one of the fastest times in Australia in his age group, Coughlan had set his heart on making nationals for the first time. The event will be held at Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney between April 12 and 21.

“It feels pretty good,” he said.

“I’m happy to make it and I felt like I had a good chance of making it this year.”

Coughlan, who represents Knox Athletics at the senior athletic events, said his focus at the national’s this year was to enjoy the experience and take it all in.

He said that he hoped that he could finish in the top five, a massive achievement in his first time at that level.

“My time is ranked fourth in my age group at the moment.”

The 14-year-old who goes to school at Salesian College in Sunbury said he got interested in walking events after doing them at Sunbury Little Athletics Centre.

“I did it up and there and got interested in it through the junior development squad through little aths.

“I find it easy now it was a bit harder when I started. I got more into it as I got to the higher levels.

“My [now] coach came and asked me to train with her in Knox. Mum now takes me over on Tuesdays and Sundays and sometimes Thursdays.”

Coughlan said Australian walking Olympic bronze medalist Dane Bird-Smith was the person he looked up to in the sport.

While Coughlan has been competing in the 3-kilometre event, it’s a long way shorter than the open age international events of 20 kilometres and 50 kilometres.

He said he might look at taking up the longer events when he gets a bit older.

It’s a busy few weeks for Coughlan, who on the weekend competed at the Little Athletics Victoria State Championships.

He was due to compete in the under-14 (different age group from the senior aths events) 1500km run and the 1500km walking events.

Overall, 11 Sunbury Little Athletics athletes were set to compete at the event.

Logan Carroll, Ellora Clements, Isabella Jordan, Liam Joyce, Oliver Long, Oliver Smyth, Michael Sparks, Georgia Stepanoski, Zachary Stevens and Indiana Stott were the others.