A decision to concentrate on sprint and middle distances events is paying off for Warrnambool runner Sophie Burrows.
The Warrnambool College student's success on the track culminated in winning the 2022-23 Victorian Athletic League under 14 junior of the year award.
Sophie, 12, won under 14 races at the Maryborough and Warrnambool gifts last season. She also ticked off a major goal when she made the Stawell Gift under 14 100-metre final.
She won the Little Athletics race at Stawell too and recently qualified for the School Sport Victoria cross country competition.
The VAL award came as a surprise to Sophie who is a member of three clubs - Inner Speed and Power, South West Turbines and Warrnambool Little Athletics Club.
Sophie often races against boys as races at that age level can be mixed.
"I didn't expect to get it because of the people I was up against but it's a great achievement," she said.
Sophie competes across multiple distances from 100m to 800m but she was originally a long-distance runner.
The 400m distance is now her favourite while she dabbles in triple jump.
"I used to be long distance but I changed," Sophie said.
"My coach Jeremy (Dixon) encouraged me to change."
Being on the track gives Sophie a sense of freedom while she enjoys racing against her friends.
"I like starting on the sideline with my friends," she said. "Sometimes it's a bit of a challenge. If it's a proper race I am very 'game on, need to beat them'.
Training on the renovated Brauerander Park track is helping Sophie's progression. "It's so much softer than the other one," she said.
"It doesn't hurt ankles - the old track when you used to step was so hard."
Sophie, who is one of four siblings, has settled into high school this year.
"It's good being with new friends and new teachers for every class," she said.
The 2023-24 VAL season will start in October.
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