Above: Lucy Sheat (477) finishing second to Georgie Hulls in the 2015 NZ 100m championships for youth women (Photo by Alan McDonald Macspeedfhoto)
Blenheim’s Lucy Sheat is one of five New Zealand athletes selected to compete at the Commonwealth Youth Games which takes place in Apia, Samoa (Sep 5-12). Steve Landells chats to the 16-year-old sprint talent about her athletic story and hopes for the quadrennial multi-sport event.
How did your athletics story begin?
LS: All my siblings – I have twin brothers who are aged 25 and an older sister, Olivia, 21 – competed in athletics, so I went along to the Marlborough Children’s Athletics Club aged seven and found I enjoyed it. I remember giving all events a go and watching the kids in their starting blocks was quite cool – I always wanted to do that. I started to get some good results and continued on from there.
Why do love running so much?
LS: I guess it is just the thrill of running fast, the enjoyment of competing and the atmosphere. I play for the first XI hockey team (at Marlborough Girls’ College) and did a bit of swimming, but I enjoyed athletics more. My speed definitely came into play on the hockey field and I played rep hockey for Marlborough, but about a month ago I stopped hockey. It was a big decision, I enjoy hockey and I didn’t want to let my team-mates down, but everyone understood. It is good I can focus more on my training ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Games.
When did the sport start to become more serious for you?
LS: When I first started competing at Colgate Games - although back then I never had a coach. I was just guided by several parents and my dad. I remember running at the North Island Colgate Games in 2010 when I suffered an avulsion fracture – where part of the bone was pulled from my pelvis – which took me out for about a season. I then suffered a similar injury on the other leg and that took me out for a second season. I was determined to get back to a Colgate Games.
What kept you going through this tough run of injuries?
LS: The injury was quite frustrating and kept me out for maybe two seasons, but I really enjoyed running. Even though I picked up the injury just getting into the final (at Colgate Games) was exciting and I always knew I had more to give and wanted to know how far I could go. Dennis Kale (Lucy’s current coach) messaged me to say he was interested in coaching me because he knew I didn’t have a coach. He had coached my friend from Nelson, so I took up that opportunity. He has encouraged me to go for it.
Dennis is based in Nelson and you are based in Blenheim. How does the coach-athlete relationship work?
LS: I go over to Nelson, which is a three-hour round trip, every second weekend and for the odd twilight meet. He forwards the training programme to me fortnightly and I work through the programme on my own. I carry out most of my training at Athletic Park –a grass track in Blenheim. Before Dennis, I was assisted by Michelle Stagg (a Blenheim athlete), who gave me some help but Dennis has been really good, as before him I really had no clue what I was doing. The training is a lot more structured now. I have one day off a week with one gym session and the other sessions are on the track.
You finished second in the 100m and the 200m at both the National Secondary School Championships and in the National Championships (under-18) to Georgia Hulls. What are your thoughts on Georgia?
LS: It has been great to have the competition and Georgia is definitely someone I look up to. She is competing very well and ran some incredible times at the recent World Youth Championships in Colombia.
This year you have made a sizeable progression in the 100m (from 12.14 to 11.91 (windy) and 24.90 to 24.44 in the 200m, what do you feel has contributed to the improvement?
LS: More regular and harder training has helped but also being involved in the Pathway to Podium programme (a HPSNZ and Sport New Zealand initiative) and learning from their different workshops has helped. I found the nutritional work shop really helpful. My diet is not too bad, but I was never one to really feel like eating after sessions. But the programme taught me the importance of having food after training to aid recovery. It has been enlightening for me. Now after training I take on board protein. A banana berry and almond smoothie is my favourite.
In March you managed to dip below 12 seconds for the 100m for the first time with a wind-aided 11.91 run for second at the Australian Championships (under-17). Was this a big moment for you?
LS: Going to Australia was a successful trip and an awesome opportunity. To finally run under 12 seconds was exciting. It was wind assisted, so my next goal is to definitely run sub-12 seconds without the wind assistance.
Was qualifying for the Commonwealth Youth Games a long term target for you?
LS: Yes, it didn’t happen by accident. Dennis and I talked about wanting to go. So we thought let’s train hard and give it a go. I knew I had to run in the top three in nationals to be considered so that was the aim and to simply try and run the best times I could. I received the news I had been selected via an email. I was so honoured to be selected – it was so exciting to be selected for a big event.
Has it been hard preparing for an event which will take place in the heat of Samoa in the New Zealand winter?
LS: It will be challenge coming out of the New Zealand winter and I am not too sure you can prepare for the heat too much. But as a sprinter the heat is good, I definitely prefer the heat (than running in the cold). Over there, I have to remember to drink a lot more to keep hydrated. I also haven’t competed for a while, so I have to make sure that during my hard sessions, I am running at 100 per cent and imagining I’m being pushed by someone.
What are your aims and ambitions for the Commonwealth Youth Games?
LS: To reach the final with a PB would be the ultimate. I think as athletes we are always trying to beat our best times, so to set a PB is what I am hoping for.
Getting to know Lucy
Favourite event – 200m
Other Interests – Singing, listening to music and reading
Favourite music artist – Ed Sheeran
Favourite subjects at school – Maths and chemistry
Athletics hero – Valerie Adams