A LEAP of 4.80 metres has earned South Bendigo Athletics Club member James Woods gold in the under-18 pole vault at the Australian All Schools championships in Perth.
Woods, 16, withstood a fierce challenge from Ethan Princena-White of New South Wales to claim victory in a personal best performance.
The 16-year-old is now sixth on the world rankings in his age group for the discipline.
A day after his vault victory, Woods achieved an equal personal best of 1.94m at high jump.
"This was one of my best competitions," said the Kyabram-based young gun.
A miss on his first attempt at 4.60m upped the pressure in the pole vault showdown, especially after Princena-White cleared the height.
Woods nailed the second leap at 4.60m, but it was déjà vu when the bar was at 4.70m.
"I was trying to do the best I could, and not be concerned about Ethan," said Woods.
Using a new pole in competition for the first time took a while to adjust to, but by the 4.80m mark it was the student from St Augustine's College who took the lead.
Woods nailed his third attempt and in the process clinched gold.
"It was not technically sound, but it was a clearance, and that's what matters."
He did attempt to match the meet record of 4.90m.
The win capped many hours of training with coach Peter Barrett at the Latrobe University Bendigo athletics complex in Flora Hill, and also workouts in Kyabram.
Listed as 11th in high jump, Woods was just 4cm shy of four rivals, and level with another four in which the countback system was used.
"A lot of people have helped me along the way," Woods said of his athletics career.
The gold medal in Perth capped a big 12 months for the teenager.
He represented Regional Australia at the Oceania championships in Townsville where he won silver at pole vault and a gold medal in the 4 x 100m relay.
Next up for Woods will be the 59th edition of the Zatopek Classic to be run at Box Hill next Saturday.
Woods will team with Melbourne-based athlete Elyssia Kenshole in the Steve Hooker pole vault challenge.
Their event starts at 5.45pm at the Elgar Road complex.
The Zatopek meet will be another important stepping stone toward competing in the under-18 pole vault and high jump at the 2020 Australian Track and Field championships next March at Sydney's Olympic Park.
Woods and his family are also about to move to Bendigo from Kyabram and the youngster will study at Bendigo Senior Secondary College in 2020.
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