Day sprints out of Beaudesert and into semi
WITH legs shaking from nerves, boom Queensland sprinter Riley Day has negotiated her first individual senior race for Australia - but a bigger moment awaits.
In her heat at Carrara Stadium, the teen sensation chased outstanding Bahamas sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo into the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games women's 200m.
Day, who in February became the youngest woman to win the Australian sprint title double, trains mostly on a grass oval at Beaudesert, just 50km away from Carrara, where kindergarten assistant Donna Thomas has trained the sprinter for all of the nine years she has pursued athletics.
Day, who was deep in thought after the heat, said she aimed to make Thursday night's final and expected she would have to break her 22.93sec personal-best time in Wednesday night's semi-final to do so.
Together, Day and Thomas have both learned on the job as they negotiate a path that has taken them to a World Championships and the Commonwealth Games - way ahead of their expectations.
Thomas's twins, Ben and Olivia, went to Little Athletics as eight-year-olds and Day tagged along with them to Saturday morning meets a year later, contesting her first national age titles in under-10s.
"I'd played lots of representative netball with Riley's mum Nicky well before children came on the scene,'' Thomas said.
"I agreed to coach her for a little while, until the time came that someone else should. Coaching was all a learning curve for me. I went through Little Athletics coaching and then later on Athletics Australia courses. At times I feel out of my depth with the leaps and bounds she's making.
"It is a large responsibility to coach someone with that ability as a first athlete. But we are getting there together.''
While Day has sometimes trained on synthetic tracks, like her Games rivals, in recent weeks she has moved mostly from grass oval to grass oval in Beaudesert depending on which one is least affected by heavy rain.
In her heat, Day ran a comfortable first 100m and held it together to place third in 23.71sec behind Miller-Uibo (22.75sec).
"I didn't run the full way. When I saw where I was, I eased up to conserve as much energy as I could,'' she said.
"I have to run the semi-final like a final to try to make into the final.
"My legs were trembling. You don't know what the crowd is like until you get out there. It was really good though, one of the best experiences I've ever had.''
All three Australian women made Wednesday night's 200m semi-finals, with Day (23.71sec) slower than both NSW teammates Maddie Coates (23.51sec) and Larissa Pasternatsky (23.55sec).
Thomas's son Ben, a former national school championships hammer thrower, is now a Gold Coast Titans rugby league under-20 player and remains friends with Day, who he will cheer on at Carrara Stadium on Wednesday night, along with her family and many of her friends.
Day said: "I've kept my life as normal as possible the last few weeks and being in Queensland has helped.
"I don't want to know how many people from my town are here. It would make me more nervous.''
Brisbane's Alex Hartmann said the crowd support for him was "insane'', after he qualified from the men's 200m heats with a convincing second place in 20.66sec, just 0.19sec outside his personal best.