FOCUS talks with 14 year old PLC student Isabella (Bella) Watts, who has only been training for running for two years and is already winning state medals and making national finals.
When did you first become involved with athletics?
I’ve enjoyed running from an early age. I remember in my first ever race I refused to take my hat off at the start line. Mid race it fell off, I stopped, picked up the hat put it back on – and still won the race. It wasn’t until 2016 when I was in Year 6 that I started to train seriously.
You have been successful in recent events; tell us about them …
My first run of the season in 2018 was at the NSW Country Championships in Wollongong, where I won a silver medal in the 400 m and a gold medal in the 200 m, running a nationals qualifying time.
In February I competed in two state championships, the first being NSW Juniors State Championships held in Sydney. My first race was the 400 m, where I narrowly placed fourth with a new two second personal best. It was this race where I became the youngest female 400 m runner in Armidale Athletics Club history to break 60 seconds. In the 200 m it was also a very close race, where I was only 0.1 of a second (blanket finish) off first place, running a pb of 25.86, placing fourth.
A few weeks later I competed in Brisbane at the Queensland State Titles, where I came away with the silver medal in the 400 m and fourth again in the 200 m.
In my most recent competition, I competed at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships at Sydney Olympic Park in both the 200 m and 400 m. I won my heat in the 400 m and placed fifth in the final, with a new pb of 57.74 and became the fastest female on record for the 400 m in a Armidale Athletics Club history. I also competed in the 200 m after the tough days of 400 m running and placed 14th.
Do you train with a group of athletes or train solo?
I train with a group of athletes called the Viper Squad. It is a large group of about 50 current athletes ranging from beginners to Australian and world champions. I am lucky to train with this group of hard working athletes, who help me bring out my best each and every training session. We are a close knit team who support each other through the highs and lows of the sport. I am also very fortunate to train under my coach Jay Stone. Jay is the current 200 m and 400 m World Masters indoor champion in his age category.
How do you keep fit to keep at the level you need to compete?
I train four days a week at Harris Park with the Viper Squad, whilst also doing a long run each week to keep my fitness. Most nights I spend at home completing set exercise routines, working on my strength.
What are your goals for your running over the next 12 months?
My short term goal is to win gold and break Anneliese Rubie’s (400 m Commonwealth Games Finalist 2018) long standing record in the 400 m at the Combined Independent Schools (CIS) state championships.
I have already achieved the qualifiers for next year’s Nationals Titles for both the 200 m and 400 m, and I hope to medal there.
Your family must be very supportive; what does it mean for you to have such a great support network?
I am very fortunate to have a great support team around me – my coach, my team mates, my family and most especially my parents, who give me the opportunity to achieve in my chosen sport. I am lucky my parents are self employed (House worX); this gives them the flexibility to be able to attend most training sessions and most importantly, my athletics meets. This usually includes up to 10 trips away each year.
Would you encourage other children to take up athletics?
If you are up for the challenge and love making new friends and feeling a part of a group, then I definitely recommend athletics.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to be able to represent Australia and compete at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.