Pressure affects every athlete differently. Some crumble and let their nerves get the better of them. Others, like Murrumbateman’s Mikayla Cruz, perform at their peak when the stakes are highest.
This is exactly what happened last Friday, when Cruz travelled to Vanuatu to take part in the Melanesian Regional Championships.
Although she struggled with the humidity and pre-race nerves, the 17-year-old managed to settle herself and emerge as the winner of the Under 18 Women’s 400m Hurdles.
“It was probably the best time I’ve ever had to be honest, it was all fun,” Cruz said.
“It felt incredible, that’s really one of the things I had dreamt of for a while.
“Probably the past year and a half I’ve been saying to myself this is my goal, I want to come away with that gold medal.”
It didn’t help that there were technical issues prior to the race which meant that Mikayla and her competitors were forced to wait on the track for ten minutes, but the youngster managed to stay composed and focused on running well.
There was only one other competitor in the Under 18 division, who was also Australian. Mikayla knew her opponent, Mikayla Check, and, while she was confident about her chances, she also knew never to underestimate her rivals.
“There was only two of us in the race in the under 18’s, but they combined the opens and the under 18’s so there was three of us in the race,” Mikayla explained.
“I was familiar with her [Check] and how she ran and that I had a faster time than she did, [but] I was a bit anxious that she could run this really amazing time out of nowhere.”
Now that the championships are over, Mikayla has had time to reflect on what else she enjoyed about Vanuatu.
“I got to stay in the accommodation with the Australian team,” she said.
“I had two roommates who were lovely, such nice people. It was a great experience, really, really good.”
Another bonus for the youngster was that the gold medal pushed her into the consciousness of senior athletics officials, which she believes may pay off in the long run.
“I’ve been known by a lot more people now, I feel like I’m getting a lot more exposure in the athletics community,” Mikayla said.
“I feel like that’ll boost my atlhetics career and get me more well known.
“It will be a massive help just in terms of getting around and knowing all these different people and having contacts in the athletic community.”
From here, Mikayla will enter a quiet period to focus on her school and train intensively ahead of the Australian All Schools competition in December.
“I think it’s just working towards the Australian all schools competition which will be my last one because it’s through school and I’m in Year 12 this year,” she said.
“Starting today I go back into base training which is basically working on fitness and not doing the hurdles as much.”
“So I’ll be doing that for all winter.”