46 Years and Counting: The Unbeatable Little A’s Record
Since Little Athletics New South Wales was founded in 1970, broken records are a common practice as generation after generation of talent comes through the system.
Notable current record holders include Brandon Starc in the U17 Boys Long Jump (2010), Nicholas Hough in the U13 Boys 200m (2007) and Ella Nelson in the U14 Girls 200m (2008).
However, one record has stood the test of time – Graham Garnett’s U7 Boys 70m record at the 1973 State Track & Field Championships is yet to be trumped, and remains unchallenged in the latest LANSW records.
Although Garnett, who’s now in his early fifties, doesn’t recall a lot from that age, he recalls bits and pieces of that infamous race.
“I can remember a little bit about that race – I reckon Andrew Ettingshausen was in the race,” said Garnett.
“I remember I beat some kid who has never been beaten before and his parents were going crazy.”
Garnett’s love of athletics never faded – today, Garnett coaches a successful squad of junior athletes at Hills District Little Athletics Centre. He also co-founded and runs the Hills Athletics Academy.
Garnett enjoys reminding the Hills District LAC athletes of his stellar achievement; however, they are quick to point out a few technicalities.
“They shoot me back down because they’ve looked it up and realised that it’s not an event at the State Championships anymore… I think it’s only run at the Multis now,” said Garnett.
“I think there’s also about four equal to me now. All I know is we ran on a terrible track, and they’re running on great tracks.
“I would have won at least 25 gold medals, 15 individual minimum. That’ll put them in their bloody spot.”
Now a Level 4 Sprints, Hurdles & Jumps accredited coach, Garnett represented Hornsby LAC during his time in Little A’s.
“We killed it there – [Hornsby] was a huge club, and the talent from there was huge. Go to any Championships, and it would just be orange shirts everywhere, especially the Relay Championships,” said Garnett.
“I disappeared from athletics – I went and played football and got injured in football pretty badly. Then I had to go to work, earn an income, then I had kids.”
When Garnett spotted a potential sprinter at his son’s primary school about ten years ago, it sparked a career in coaching which continues today.
“I noticed one of my son’s friends was pretty quick and I mentioned ‘Do you want to do something?’ – she said ‘Righto’ and that’s where it started,” said Garnett.
“It’s in my blood. I figured that out once I started coaching that girl, who’s still with me now actually.”
According to Garnett, Hills District LAC is thriving with plenty of engagement from the Little Athletes.
“We’re getting 30 kids to rock up on a Tuesday and a Thursday for middle distance training; that was something that never happened before in this area. We have a good squad going four days a week between middle distance and sprinting of athletes that vary in age from 6-14,” said Garnett.
“They’re inspiring those kids – as much as they try to tell me this is the off-season, they’re down there, and they’re having a crack.
“A lot of athletes who we were coaching are coming back as and contributing as coaches. It adds to the culture and extends the life of the club.”
Whether the Little Athletes want to pursue a career in athletics or any other sport, Little Athletics provides the fundamental skills for all physical activity.
“It’s a great grounding, and a lot of the kids recognise that. A lot of these kids are multi-skilled; they play in many different sports, and they’re getting some success at it. Some have transferred to soccer, AFL, touch; but they all come back to the fact they got a really good grounding in Little Athletics,” said Garnett.
“That’s what Little A’s has given them – strength, conditioning, technique, speed, endurance, coordination.”