Riley Day of Queensland competes in the under-17 girls' 200m heat during the Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Perth in March last year.
Riley Day of Queensland competes in the under-17 girls' 200m heat during the Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Perth in March last year. Paul Kane

High school student eyeing race with world's fastest man

ATHLETICS: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell ... Riley Day.

Queensland schoolgirl Day may not be a household name yet, but one of the rising stars of Australian athletics is buzzing about being alongside the superstars of track and field competing in first the Nitro Athletics competition.

The 16-year-old is in Melbourne preparing for tonight's premiere of the team-based, three-meet series geared to revolutionise her sport.

From Beaudesert, south of Brisbane, Day will represent an Australian line-up against Bolt's hand-picked All-Stars and teams from England, China, Japan and New Zealand.

You could call the invitation after last December's All School nationals in Canberra certainly a "bolt" from the blue.

"(Australian selector) Benita Willis came up to me and asked me if I'd be interested in being a part of Team Australia," she recalled to News Regional Media. "I was like 'ah ... yes'.

"I was expecting to watch it, not compete in it.

"It's a great experience for myself at such a young age."

Day had just claimed the under-18 girls' sprint double - winning the 100m and 200m - at the nationals.

Now she could be running against none other than Bolt himself in the mixed 4x100m relay at Lakeside Stadium.

"It's a pretty cool experience," she said.

"It was a good idea with all the different events and stuff, watching teams coming together."

Competing alongside the likes of Rio Olympians Ryan Gregson, Morgan Mitchell, Genevieve LaCaze, Fabrice Lapierre and Michelle Jenneke, this will be the first time Day has worn the green and gold.

It's a big occasion with the athletics world watching to see if the concept will be a success.

"I'm just trying to soak up the atmosphere," Day said. "And not fall into a pile of nerves."

Day is also expected to run the women's 150m. While she's more accustomed to the more traditional 100m and 200m, it's a distance she has had success in.

Day first gained prominence when beating Olympic champion hurdler Sally Pearson in the 150m event late last year during a meeting on the Gold Coast.

Pearson had just beaten her in the 60m 15 minutes earlier.

"We were neck and neck for that and then she just pipped me right at the end," Day recalled.

"I think that fired me up for the 150m a little bit more."

Day has been coached by Donna Thomas since she first took up athletics at age nine.

Within a year she was contesting national titles, and has every year since - medalling each time.

Her wind-assisted 11.36 seconds at the All Schools makes her the second-fastest Australian woman over 100m in the past 12 months, behind Melissa Breen.

She ranks fourth among Aussie women in the 200m after setting a personal-best 23.51sec at the Queensland titles last October.

Day admits her favourite event is the 100m "because it's a little bit shorter".

Now in Year 12 at Beaudesert State High School, Day has a hectic year ahead as she tries to qualify for the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas in July.

"I'm trying to manage school and sport during this term, it's pretty full on," she said. "It'll be a little bit hard to complete all assessments but I'll get it done."

Nitro Athletics starts at 6pm tonight, continues on Thursday and concludes next Saturday.



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