Steeplechase was something Andrew Laycock took up for fun, and it turns out he has a talent for it.
After winning gold in the 2000m steeplechase in 6 minutes 13 seconds at the NSW All Schools Track and Field Championships in September, the 15-year-old from Blaxland will compete in the Australian All Schools Track and Field Championships in Perth from December 6.
The Blaxland High student also qualified for nationals in the 3000m, after a silver medal run of 8:58, securing a 10 second PB in both events.
While Andrew has a running coach - Dani Andres from Pulse Performance - he's a self-taught steeplechaser.
He's watched a lot of videos of athletes competing in steeplechase and studies their technique closely. Locally, he practises jumping steeple hurdles into a sandy long jump pit with his friend Tiago Ribeiro once a week, to simulate the steeplechase water jump.
"You push off the steeple and try to avoid the water. You've got to be strong in the legs on push off and make sure you get over them fast," Andrew said.
With 25 hurdles to go over in the 2000m race, technique and speed are critical.
In the lead-up to the national competition, the Blaxland resident has been focusing on his jumping technique. "If you make a mistake, it can cost places and timing," he said.
"I'm hoping to get a medal for nationals."
And for the 3000m, he's been working on meeting lap times, fast finishes, and starting well without getting blocked in.
It's cross country however, which is Andrew's favourite event. He was seventh in the under 15s 4000m at the Australian All Schools Cross Country Championships in August, in a time of 12 minutes 52 seconds.