Qualifying for the final of the 100m hurdles at the Summer Universiade (also known as the World University Games) in Taipei is the major goal for Griffith University student Liz Clay.
Something that could help her achieve that goal will be some guidance from teammate Michelle Jenneke who won bronze in the event two years ago.
Jenneke, who competed at the Rio Olympics last year, claimed bronze in Gwangju and will join Clay in Taipei as part of a strong athletics team.
“I do have some goals, I’d love to make the final,” Clay said from her base on the Gold Coast.
“I have seen that there are semis this year, which is good because it will hopefully mean that I will get more than one run.
“Obviously, it’s a stepping-stone for the Commonwealth Games as well so I’m hoping to learn a lot and come away with some sort of qualifier.”
Clay said it was a real positive for her to have Jenneke, who is the second fastest woman over 100m hurdles in the country behind Sally Pearson, on the team.
“I’m willing to learn a lot from her as she’s been before (to World University Games), and to the Olympics so it will be great to have her on the team,” she added.
Clay, 22, earned her first Uniroos call up after placing fourth at the Australian athletics championships earlier this year in Sydney behind Pearson, Brianna Beahan and Jenneke.
A windy 13.34 (+2.3) in that final, less than a month after setting her personal best of 13.36 in Canberra, ensured her Summer Universiade debut would be made in August.
“I was really happy with nationals, I mean the time was great although in the final it was with an illegal wind,” Clay said.
“It was good to get fourth Australian, which is awesome and then ultimately got selected on the (Uniroos) team.
“That reiterated that I’m able to mix it with some of the best and I’m also able to turn it on at a major competition, it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Since then Clay has hit full training mode following a short break and in early July clocked 14.54 in a wet hurdles race at the DownUnder Championships on the Gold Coast.
A week later she posted a time of 12.63 for the 100m as preparations get serious for the trip to Taipei.
“I had two weeks off after nationals and then we went on a bit of a training camp just to introduce us back into work,” she added.
“Then we started up slowly after that, so only had the two weeks off just because anymore than that and the body starts to think it’s on a holiday.
“My form is really good, training is going well, just starting to put everything together and do a little bit more speed and explosive stuff in the gym.
“Slowly building and making sure we keep my body in check.”
Balancing study and her athletics career has been a challenge in the past, but since moving north to the Gold Coast from Sydney and starting her second course she is better set up to have more time for training.
Clay is now under the guidance of Pearson’s former long-time coach Sharon Hannon who has incorporated a conservative program that has so far kept the oft-injured hurdler on the track.
“Uni is going really well, this is my second degree and it’s definitely a lot more low-key than my first degree of sports science, which I did in Sydney,” Clay explained.
“So I’m doing a Bachelor of Business part time at the moment at Griffith and really enjoying it.
“It’s easy having everything close by, training at university.”
Looking further up the road, Clay has a strong desire to qualify for her first senior global championships at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Given she is based on the Gold Coast, where the Games will be held, there are daily reminders of how significant making the team will be for all Australian athletes.
“I drive past the village almost every day on my way to and from training, so it’s a great motivator,” Clay revealed.
“I see something about the Commonwealth Games everyday so it’s definitely in the front of my mind now and I’m looking forward to Taipei as a stepping-stone towards qualifying for that team as well.”