CAN, will and positivity are themes for Bendigo-based pole vault ace James Woods ahead of Athletics Australia's national championships in Sydney's Olympic Park.
Woods, 19, will take on the country's rising stars in one of track and field's most testing events across the March 26 to April 3 meet.
He soared above the 5.05m qualifying mark for this year's world junior titles in Cali, Colombia when he competed in Tuesday night's Rare Air VIII meet at Melbourne University.
Highs in the 2021-22 track and field season for the Keilor St Bernards athlete who previously competed with South Bendigo include winning the Steve Hooker Challenge at the Zatopek 10 for the third time in a row, and gold in the under-20 pole vault at the Victorian titles.
Both contests were at South Melbourne's Lakeside Stadium.
"Training is going really well. There is a lot of work that goes into training at the track and in the gym," Woods said of his build-up to the Rare Air meets and also another national championships showdown.
There have been some subtle changes to his approach on the runway.
"I am now doing a 16-step run and working on a longer stride.
"The key is exponentially or rapidly increasing speed and then pushing up and over the bar.
"A lot of people talk about the physical test in pole vault, but for me the most challenging part is the mind," said Woods.
"There are some days where competition or training has not gone as well as you wanted it to.
"I have learnt you can be mad for five minutes, but then accept it's in the past and move on to the next challenge.
"I am always learning and working as hard as I can to improve."
Woods cleared the 4.90m mark to be third at Rare Air VII at Melbourne Uni as Box Hill's Dalton Di Medio reigned supreme at 5.20m.
Rare Air VII and VIII were showdowns between KSB clubmates Woods and Wilson Cram who will also vie for glory at the nationals.
"Stakes will be higher for both of us at nationals," Woods said.
The Victorian team-mates will be up against Queensland's Liam Georgilopoulos.
"All three of us are aiming for junior worlds," Woods said of the titles set down for early August.
"Australia wants to send as big a team as possible, but to clear 5.05m earns a place instead of relying on selectors' discretion."
After starting in high jump at athletics, Woods was soon hooked on pole vault.
In 2020 he won gold in the open and under-18 finals at the Victoria Country titles run at John Landy Field in Geelong.
Woods repeated the feat at last year's country champs in Ballarat.
He contested the under-20s decathlon at last year's Victorian multi-event titles in Bendigo, but pole vault has always been the favourite pursuit. It's an amazing adrenalin rush."
Woods has set up a Gofundme page to help realise his goal to fly high in Cali this August.
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