Recently, I was very privileged to be part of the ISF World All Schools Cross Country Championships which were held from 21 March 2012 in Malta. I was notified of my selection last September based on my Cross Country results at the Nationals which were held in Canberra. The pride I felt in wearing the Australian uniform was overwhelming.
The night flight was 15 hours from Sydney to Dubai where we stayed for 3 days. Training was held every morning and the afternoons and nights were spent touring. My best memory of Dubai was the desert 4WD safari night where we spent approximately 6 hours out in the middle of nowhere riding camels and eating our dinner under the stars while watching belly dancers perform.
On day 4 we traveled to Malta where the fun really began with the flight taking 8 hours. Our accommodation was about 30 minutes away from the capital of Malta, Valetta and all the athletes from all over the world stayed at the same hotel. This was a great way of meeting the other athletes and learning about all of the different cultures.
The opening ceremony was held in a stadium where the captains of each country had to walk out carrying a sign with the country they were representing. Race day was exciting. The first race started at 9.30am which was the Girls Schools team – Australia was represented by All Hallows in Queensland and they came sixth. The next race involved the Boys Schools team from Marcellin College here in Victoria. They scored a bronze in the team division.
Next was my race and all 6 Australian girls warmed up together. No one wanted to talk as we were all very focused on the race. The starting gates were very narrow and I was allocated the back row. We stayed in the starting position for some time as we were unsure as to what the starter’s command was going to be. When the race started, there was lots of pushing and jostling for position from the all of the runners. Everyone went out really fast trying to cut off each other and gain a prominent early position. I enjoyed every minute of the race and I wasn’t even thinking of how tired I was.
Towards the end of the race, I gained momentum and passed my team mate and an Algerian girl. I was so pleased with my result and time of 12.07 minutes as I didn’t know what to expect at this elite world level. My aim was to finish in the top 30 as I did not change any of my training coming into the championships. I came 16th out of 57 girls and Australia claimed silver in the team medals.
The last race was the boy’s individual race with Australia finishing 1st, 2nd & 3rd and also claiming the gold in the team division. Once we returned back to our hotel, it was our chance to let our hair down and dance the night away at the Cultural night where the Australians had to perform a dance – it was called “Waves of Bondi”.
The Friendship Relay was 2 days later and it comprised 16 runners. We were required to have one representative athlete from each country and the teams had to be mixed in terms of gender. Each leg was only 300 metres and the relay was run around an ancient cobble stoned town.
At the end of the championships, the Australia team headed to Rome for 3 days. No further training was involved and we enjoyed tours, lots of shopping and relaxing. Our tours included The Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, The Basilica, The Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. This whole experience associated with representing Australia has opened my eyes and given me the hunger to make another international team in the future.