Athletics is not a major sport in Marlborough, but that has not stopped a Blenheim teenager stamping her mark at national level. Clay Wilson caught up with the rising sprint star to find out about her record-breaking feats. --------------------
Lucy Sheat is seriously quick, and is breaking records to prove it.
The 14 year-old sprint specialist from Blenheim is not only one of the fastest in New Zealand in her age group, she is rapidly becoming one of the fastest in the country full stop and that was no more evident than at the annual Mahar Cup representative meet with Nelson and West Coast in Nelson last weekend.
Competing at senior level for the first time, year 10 Marlborough Girls' College pupil Lucy won the senior women's 100m, the girls' 16 200m and the girls' 400m on her way to being awarded the Mawhera Shield for the outstanding performer of the meet. Her 100m time of 12.22sec beat the previous record by 0.28sec and is just 0.9 of a second away from the NZ national record of 11.32 set by Michelle Seymour in 1993, but did not count because it was wind-aided.
Lucy, though, did break a 21 year-old record and set a new mark by half a second with her time of 25.41sec in the 200m and came home in 58.00sec in the 400m, just three-tenths of a second away from the existing record set by former Olympian Toni Hodgkinson.
Lucy said she definitely "wasn't expecting to do that well". However, her outstanding performance at the South Island Colgate Games just a few weeks early was an indication of the form she was in. Lucy claimed a hat-trick of gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m and was awarded one of just four Nick Willis scholarships.
Given the challenges she has faced with injury, the success Lucy has had is impressive.
Born and brought up in Blenheim, Lucy followed her older twin brothers and older sister into athletics, starting at the age of seven. She soon found a passion for the sport and, with running in her family on both sides and a tall athletic frame on her side, it was not long before Lucy realised she had plenty of ability as well.
"I really got into it and started doing competitions and realised I really enjoyed it. [In] My first Colgates at Timaru when I was 10 I got two golds and a silver and that's when I realised I was quite good at it."
Unfortunately for Lucy, the next couple of seasons did not go so well. She collapsed in pain halfway through the 100m final at the following Colgate Games, later discovering she had suffered an avulsion fracture in the top part of her leg. The next year she suffered the same injury to her other leg and was told she may not run competitively again until she was 18.
But, after the best part of two seasons not competing, Lucy recovered from her injury and, with careful management, has been healthy since. Once she was fit again, it did not take long for her to regain that speed and in April last year she bounced back with a superb third overall placing at the national grade 12-13 interprovincial meet, including gold in the 100m and 200m and bronze in the 400m.
That prompted Lucy to ramp up her training even more and since then she has been working with former Marlborough sprinter and nationally-ranked netball umpire Michelle Stagg. That and a five day a week programme is clearly paying off because, in addition to all her other achievements over the past 12 months, Lucy was the MGC and Tasman secondary schools under-14 athletics champion in 2013.
While natural talent and hard work have played a big part in her success, Lucy is quick to mention how important the support of her parents and the Marlborough club has been.
"The support from my parents, definitely, because some days it's hard to motivate myself but they are always there pushing me along. Also having the support of the club has been really good."
Although she takes her athletics very seriously, this likeable teenager's life certainly is not lacking balance. She plays hockey in the winter, representing the MGC first XI last year, has done ballet for nearly 10 years and is a member of MGC choir Bella Voce. Swimming and tennis also featured before athletics took over.
There is no doubt Lucy wants to go far in athletics and her face lights up when she says going to the Commonwealth Games would be "really cool". However, at the moment it is much more about the here and now, with several people encouraging her to attend the NZ national senior champs at the end of March. To a lot of 14 year-olds that would be a daunting prospect, but Lucy is seriously considering competing. Her times mean she will be far from out of place and she knows how beneficial it could be. "Just the whole experience of it, racing against girls I wouldn't usually get to run against . . . I just want to get more PBs and get even faster."
WEEKLY SPORTS STAR
Name: Lucy Jane Sheat.
Nickname: Some people call me Luce.
Born: Blenheim, July 5, 1999.
Educated: Whitney Street School, Bohally Intermediate and Marlborough Girls' College.
Earliest sporting hero: I think it would be Dan Carter, who doesn't love the All Blacks!
Latest sporting hero: Valerie Adams. She is such a dedicated athlete and has done amazingly well in her field.
Must-watch TV programme: Home and Away.
Must-have food: Icecream and wedges.
What's hot on your MP3 player (walkman/stereo): I'm loving the song All of Me by John Legend and I also enjoy Ed Sheeran's music.
Favourite holiday spot: The Marlborough Sounds, but I'm sure it would be Fiji if my parents would take me.
Superstitions: I don't have any.
Fashion crime: Sneans haha, sneakers and jeans.
Favourite sporting moment: The first time I went to the Colgate Games and won gold.
Worst sporting moment: Tearing my hamstring in the 100m final at the North Island Colgate Games a couple of years ago.
In five years I'll be: Hopefully representing New Zealand for athletics.
- The Marlborough Express