Talented Wagga track and field star, Godfrey Okerenyang, believes his athletics career is back on track as he heads towards the Australian Junior Championships next month.
The last 12 months have had significant ups and downs due to injury so it's with some relief that Okerenyang is on the road to Sydney this week for a Bankstown All-Comers meet and some more regular competition.
While a host of junior athletes are also headed to Homebush, to represent Kooringal-Wagga and Wagga Wagga clubs at the NSW Little Athletics Championships, that's a pathway Okerenyang missed due to injury.
It was a torn hamstring last spring, damaging the tendon, that caused the grief, after the teenager ramped up his running training in October, off the back of a football season. And then did the splits at a party.
Months later, it was still causing trouble. In fact, just weeks ago, he was considering giving up on the year. But on the advice of his physio, Okerenyang ran in the ACT championships - his first serious athletics event since last May.
Coming through that was a confidence boost to go to NSW Juniors, where he won gold in the 100m, after a sub-11 second heat, and was fourth in the 200m.
It fired the excitement for the Australian Championships in the first week of April. And hence the trip to Bankstown to continue the preparation, tackling the 60m and 200m sprints and the long jump.
"The 60 is to try and work on my start, just trying to get them consistent for Nationals because in Canberra I had the best start of my life then (NSW) Juniors wasn't as good, but still alright," Okerenyang said.
"Hopefully my 200m is much better and to get a jump over seven metres would be nice in the long jump... and hopefully I can peak at (national) Juniors."
Beyond that, next year's under 20 junior world championships loom on the horizon for the 16-year-old, who has turned his attention back to the track rather than the football field.
Okerenyang concedes this might be his last year with Coolamon. But the club and the game didn't hurt his athletics career when he won the AFL grand final sprint at the MCG, live on national television.
"I went to NSW multi-event athletics two weeks ago and at the hotel people recognised me and they asked for photos, so that was cool," Okerenyang said with a laugh of his football-inspired fame.
He warmed up for Bankstown with a triple-record-breaking effort at The Riverina Anglican College's athletics carnival on Friday.
The school got right behind his sprint in the 100m, with an amazing atmosphere as the field events stopped and all lined the track.
He stopped the clock at 11.49s, breaking a record that had stood for 11 years by a quarter-of-a-second.
Imagine if he'd got into top gear.
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